Cape Town – The latest average dam levels for the Western Cape have dropped to 18.9%, from last week's 19.5%, the Western Cape government said on Monday as it reminded struggling farmers that there was help available.
"We are keeping a close eye on the weather in the hope that we might see some welcome rain clouds soon," said Anton Bredell, the MEC of local government, environmental affairs and development planning in the province.
"But until our dams have all recovered substantially we want to urge the public and all other sectors of society to heed the call to continue to save water," he said in a statement.
At the same time last year, the dams were 26.9% full.
The measures taken have included the introduction of water restrictions in many of the province's municipalities, notably the Level 6B restrictions in the City of Cape Town where people are restricted to 50 litres per person per day, unless they have written permission to use more.
The dreaded Day Zero – when a 25-litre ration system would kick in – has been officially moved to 2019 by the municipality, which believes water saving and water augmentation measures will get the City through the drought, as long as Capetonians keep their potable water use low.
Farmers urged to contact authorities
However, Bredell has kept the red flag up for farmers caught in the disaster, saying it would take three to four seasons of above average rainfall for dams to recover.
"We are currently most concerned about our agriculture sector. The sector is currently bearing the brunt of the devastating drought," said Bredell.
"We want to advise all stakeholders, including farmers and others in rural areas, to contact their nearest local authorities with any drought-related questions, comments or concerns. Alternatively, they can also contact the Western Cape disaster management centre."
The province's department of agriculture spokesperson, Bianca Capazorio, said the provision of relief was nationally limited to the provision of fodder for livestock, which the department has spent more than R100m on.
"We have partnered with the department of social development who are providing humanitarian assistance where agri-workers are in need of social support as a result of having lost their jobs, or having to work a reduced number of days," said Capazorio.
The department of agriculture had also assisted with the drilling of boreholes in Matzikama municipality and provided access to drinking water in some rural areas.
Applications for funding
Farmers can apply for the funding from the Western Cape department of agriculture's disaster relief office through a request form which helps the department assess their needs, such as where they farm and how many animals they need feed for.
They can access the form on the provincial department of agriculture's website or they can call 021 808 5368.
If their farm is in a critical or very dry area, the request will be processed and if the farm falls in an area which is outside one of these critical areas, they may be required to provide proof of their need, Capazorio explained.
"For example, the Overberg region has only one area considered 'critical', however, if a farmer comes from an area outside of this, and can demonstrate a need, they can be assisted in special circumstances," she said.
Organisations such as the Gift of the Givers have also been involved in helping with borehole drilling and supplying bottled water, she added.