Rainfall provides no PMB drought relief

2017-01-18 06:01


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INCREASED mandatory water restrictions may be on the cards for uMgungundlovu if good rains are not received in the first quarter of 2017, which is when it is only likely to occur this year. The current high temperatures are also leading to evaporation of the dam surface water.

According to forecasts by South African Weather Service and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, good rains are only forecast to occur during the first three months of the year. The first two weeks of the year have not yielded above-average rainfall. If the situation persists it means that the current level of the Mgeni system, that supplies uMgungundlovu, will have to last until the next rains.

“Umgeni Water’s largest system which supplies water to an estimated four million consumers in uMgungundlovu District, Pietermaritzburg and much of eThekwini remains under stress as the drought continues its firm grip on KwaZulu-Natal,” said Shami Harichunder, Corporate Stakeholder Manager, Umgeni Water.

Harichunder said that rainfall received from 5 to 8 January made no impact on the levels of Midmar, Nagle and Albert Falls dams because it fell outside of the catchments of these dams.

“Midmar Dam has been stabilised in mid-50% as a result of transfer of water into it from Spring Grove Dam and some rainfall. Of great concern to Umgeni Water is the level of Albert Falls, the largest dam in Umgeni Water’s operational area. Water is normally transferred into Albert Falls from Midmar, but application of this rule has had to be stopped because of inadequate water in Midmar,” he said.

According to Harichunder an estimated total 1 000mm rainfall was received in the entire Mgeni system in October and November 2016 which is on par with the 20-year average over that period. However, rainfall received collectively in 2016, 2015 and part of 2014 remains in a deficit state.

“This means that the amount is far less than the average annual rainfall. In order for the situation to return to a state of normality, and major dams to begin rising significantly, at least two seasons of above-average rainfall are required.

“Midmar and Albert Falls dams will have to reach levels of 70% each before the resource in them could be considered to be adequate to meet the full needs of uMgungundlovu District Municipality, Msunduzi Local Municipality and eThekwini Metro,” said Harichunder.

The 15% mandatory water restrictions remain implemented in uMgungundlovu, Pietermaritzburg and parts of Durban.

“Umgeni Water has issued a reminder to all consumers that water restrictions still remain in place in all of uMgungundlovu, Pietermaritzburg and in about 80% of Durban. An appeal has also been made to consumers to use water sparingly.

“Water rationing and restrictions were implemented as a strategy to prevent possible failure of Midmar and Albert Falls dams. Failure of these dams would have had dire consequences for the economies of Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Failure occurs when a dam dries up, leaving only silt in it. Failure of these dams has been mitigated by the application of restrictions, reduction in potable water production and water rationing,” he said.

Harichunder stressed the importance of a disciplined use of water, which will assist in ensuring that the resource will remain available for future consumption until the next rains are received.

The Mgeni system comprises, in its upper part, Mearns Weir, Spring Grove Dam and Midmar Dam. The lower part of Mgeni system comprises Albert Falls Dam, Nagle Dam and Inanda Dam. The levels of four of these dams are lower than they had been a year ago while the levels of the remaining two are marginally higher than they were a year ago to the day.

The levels of these dams as at Thursday, 12 January on the left while their levels a year ago are in brackets:

•57% Midmar: (47%)

•106% Mearns Weir: (77%)

•51% Spring Grove: (72%)

•63% Nagle: (87%)

•27% Albert Falls: (38%)

•62% Inanda: (81%)

Rainfall received from 5 to 8 January made no impact on the levels of Midmar, Nagle and Albert Falls dams because it fell outside of the catchments of these dams. Midmar Dam has been stabilised in mid-50% as a result of transfer of water into it from Spring Grove Dam and some rainfall

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