Water allocation might be slashed by 90%

2017-06-29 06:01
Gamtoos Irrigation Board employees have embarked on the annual two-week repair and maintenance of the 69km main canal which leads from the Kouga Dam to the Loerie Dam and surrounding farms. Photo:SUPPLIED

Gamtoos Irrigation Board employees have embarked on the annual two-week repair and maintenance of the 69km main canal which leads from the Kouga Dam to the Loerie Dam and surrounding farms. Photo:SUPPLIED

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“IF farmers can’t plant their full allocation of crops, there is no need for those workers,” says Rose. “We operate with a fairly small contingent of staff, and I have not had to cut back yet.”

Fellow GIB board member Jacques du Preez also farms in the area. Focusing on sweet potato, carrots, maize and wheat, he employs up to 40 staff.

“I’ve been farming for 20 years. We took the decision in April not to plant maize for 2017/18, and to cut back slightly on the rest of the crop production. We will then use our water allocation for 2017/18 to get that crop to harvest in August/September,” says Du Preez.

“If by then there have been no further rains, there is no Plan B. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it, but I am staying positive.”

Maintenance

The crisis escalated the importance of savings for the irrigation board, which on June 16 embarked on a 16-day maintenance and repair shutdown of its main canal leading water from the Kouga Dam to the Loerie Dam – which feeds the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and surrounding farms.

The annual shutdown of the 69km canal – and, at staggered intervals, the other 45km of branch canals – has become key to the irrigation board keeping its water losses low. Over the past year GIB has reported water losses of just 7.5%, mainly from leaks and evaporation – down from 13% in 2008 when it received a national accolade for water savings.

GIB’s losses are also dramatically lower than those of cities such as the Metro, which reports annual losses of between 30% and 40%.

“We have a robust water management system,” says Joubert. “When a leak is reported, we aim to address it within the hour.”

Joubert says GIB wants to reduce losses even further through the refurbishment and replacement of ailing infrastructure.

“Our infrastructure was laid in 1970, so it requires ongoing maintenance,” he said, adding that the irrigation board spent R23-million annually on maintenance and operations.”

GIB Financial Manager Rienette Colesky says the consistent maintenance of the irrigation board’s infrastructure was key to reducing water losses.

“We have quite an advanced water management and metering system, which also helps keep water losses low,” says Colesky. “For us, being pro-active in maintaining our infrastructure has been a key driver in our success.”

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