Rainfall just not enough

2016-02-24 12:36
A year's worth of rain in KZN would help ease the severity of drought.

A year's worth of rain in KZN would help ease the severity of drought. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - KwaZulu-Natal would need a year’s worth of rainfall to break the current drought conditions, according to University of KZN agrometeorological expert Professor Mike Savage.

Savage said on Tuesday that due to the onset of strong trade winds reported by the Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology, normal or above-normal rainfall may occur over much of southern Africa before the onset of autumn and winter.

However, even if rain did fall in KZN in winter, it would not be enough to break the drought.

“Given the below normal rainfall in 2014, 2015 and other years, we would need more than a year’s worth of rainfall to catch up.

“Pietermaritzburg would need about 1 000 mm above the normal expected rainfall to recharge the ground water that has been depleted over several years,” said Savage.

“Over winter the dam levels, which are currently averaging below 50%, will decline to levels not seen in several decades.

“Every effort needs to be made to save water.

“In addition to the impact of El Niño causing drier and hotter conditions than normal, there is also the impact of climate change.”

Savage said that reports from the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) showed that not only was 2015 the hottest year in recorded history, but January 2016 was the hottest January since 1880 for both the northern and southern hemispheres.

Umgeni Water corporate stakeholder manager Shami Harichunder said the amount of rainfall received in January at most Umgeni Water sites was measured as being above average when compared to January 2015.

He said although the rainfall received thus far had little effect, if rains continued at their present rate, it would have a positive impact on dams.

“The dams have stopped decreasing for now and this is a positive sign,” said Harichunder.

In terms of saving water, Harichunder said that at first, “there was not much evidence of saving” water in the municipalities.

“Over the last few days Umgeni Water has noticed some minor savings, especially in the inland system, although these are still well short of the 15% required.”

He said the Joint Operations Committee would be meeting again today and “the limited savings achieved will be discussed”.

The Southern African Development Community agrometeorological report released last week revealed that rainfall improved slightly in many parts of the country in January after several months of poor rain.

The report said the rain saw farmers planting crops much later than recommended, resulting in a reduced chance for good harvests.

It estimates a 24,4% drop in the area of maize was planted, and that January rains were insufficient to eliminate rainfall deficits.

“Vegetation conditions in most areas, except the west and some eastern areas, remain the lowest observed since 2001.”

The report said commercial beef slaughters had increased significantly due to culling influenced in part by the drought.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  rain

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