Dam levels still low

2017-06-28 13:45
Experts say a year’s worth of rain needed to end water crisis.

Experts say a year’s worth of rain needed to end water crisis. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg needs a year’s worth of rain to catch up to where it should be in terms of ground water levels.

That’s according to University of KwaZulu-Natal agrometeorologist Dr Alistar Clulow, who told The Witness the province has not been receiving adequate rainfall for the past two to three years because of the El Niño phenomenon.

“We need a lot more rainfall. The only reason Midmar Dam got to 80% about a month ago is because there was water transferred from another dam. It’s not from rain in the Midmar catchment that’s filling it up.”

Clulow said the levels are starting to drop again with the winter season approaching. “The threat of fire is a problem because things are drier, vegetation burns more easily. Borehole water levels are still very low and people don’t have access to the ground water that they did and they have to drill new boreholes. It’s more likely streams will dry up during this winter period because the water table is so much lower.”

He said although there was a likelihood of the El Niño weather conditions returning this year, it was difficult to say when this may happen.

“Long-term season forecasts are difficult to do. We don’t know why El Niño happens; we have no control over it. There is a possibility that it may return but it’s difficult to say when. The big problem is we haven’t had enough rainfall to make up for the previous damage. The impact would be extreme,” he said.

Corporate stakeholder manager of Umgeni Water Shami Harichunder said water shortages are still prevalent in the Mgeni system, which collectively cannot meet the full water requirements of uMgungundlovu, Pietermaritzburg and Durban. He said Pietermaritzburg, uMgungundlovu and about 80% of Durban remain under water restrictions of 15% and that the water rationing — through a cut of 15% in potable water production at Umgeni Water’s plants at Midmar, Pietermaritzburg and Durban — also remain in place.

Harichunder said water conservation initiatives would continue because water currently available would have to last until the dry spell ends. “Prospects for good rains at the end of winter do not look promising. Projections are that rains, expected at well below average, are only likely to occur in September or in the first quarter of 2018.”

He said Albert Falls dam, which is the largest in Umgeni Water’s operational area, remains the worst affected by water shortages.

“Rainfall received in May had no impact on this dam because most of it occurred on the coast. In order for the level of Albert Falls to improve significantly, at least three seasons of above average rainfall is required or Midmar Dam has to spill over.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water crisis

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