The borehole helped, but funding is needed to save town from day zero

Imtiaz Sooliman and Gideon Groenewald having a sip of fresh borehole water in Beaufort West. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
Imtiaz Sooliman and Gideon Groenewald having a sip of fresh borehole water in Beaufort West. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

More money is needed to drill additional boreholes in a bid to save the drought-stricken Beaufort West from day zero, but there is enough to take residents of the Karoo town through the festive season.

This was said by the humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers Foundation, whose R6 million borehole project could not manage to yield the intended one million litres of water a day.

This amount of water was needed to make up for the same quantity that has been flowing into the system from the now completely dry Gamka Dam, which is the town’s main water source.

Beaufort West is one of the Western Cape towns severely hit by the drought, leaving its 34 000 residents desperately praying for rain daily. Cape Town has already announced that it may hit day zero from as early as April and, just like Beaufort West, has made an appeal to residents to use water sparingly.

Meanwhile, Gift of the Givers’ Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said, after hoping for their five boreholes to yield two million litres of water daily, it did not happen due to concerns by their specialist.

He said the hydrologist, geologist and palaeontologist who has been heading the project – Dr Gideon Groenewald – raised concerns after “finding that the drought in Beaufort West was far more severe than anyone has comprehended”.

“In the White Horse area, where we found more than one million litres of water a day, Groenewald – using his scientific knowledge – decided to drop the production to 300 000 litres a day in the best interests of preserving the aquifers. If the aquifers get destroyed the entire system will collapse. If the aquifer is preserved the arrival of just 50mm of rain will give us large volumes in just three days,” Sooliman said.

He said they were looking at expanding their project in the new year but needed funding to do this.

“In the new year there is another site we are going to look at about 1km away from our existing borehole. We are confident that from that new source we can get several hundred thousand litres a day but once again will pump out only 200 000 litres daily in the absence of rain to preserve the aquifer,” Sooliman added.

“Then there’s a site at Walker Dam where we already found 350 000 litres a day. Here again, we can safely pump 200 000 litres daily to preserve the aquifer on the absence of rain.

“There are other sites we can access but we will now need active financial support from government to assist in these initiatives ... there has to be greater investment in drilling more boreholes and putting additional water pipelines and other infrastructure.”

The town’s mayor, Jacob van der Linde, said things were not too bad but urged residents to continue using water sparingly.

“We’re coping at this stage but we must just tell people to use the water sparingly. We have enough water in the storage for the next few days and we have Jojo tanks on standby which will be filled for people to get water from in case something goes wrong,” he said.

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