Although the country’s dam levels have begun dropping slightly as we approach a dry winter season for the inland provinces, they are comparatively 15% higher than in the same period last year. Figures contained in a weekly report by the Department of Water and Sanitation suggest that the dam levels have gone up from 69, 1% to 85% this week.
However, the department has cautioned against the rampant use of water as the country is not out of the woods yet from the previous drought. Because of a regional low rainfall pattern, South Africa remained a water-scarce country and water must be treated as a scarce resource.
Free State continues to boast the highest dam levels in the country at 98, 6%, followed by Gauteng at 100%. The Integrated Vaal River System (IVRS) consisting of 14 dams in different provinces as well as inflows from Lesotho has benefitted immensely from the recent heavy rains. An example of this benefit is seen at the Vaal Dam whose latest reading stands at 103% this week. However, it must be borne in mind that Gauteng and Northern Cape have smaller and fewer dams compared to the Free State which has the three biggest dams in the country. Northern Cape dam levels were recorded at 90, 9%, making it the third-highest reading after Free State and Gauteng.
At 87, 1% Limpopo’s dam levels have increased by 17% from 70% in the corresponding period last year. The Olifants Integrated River System has played a major role in increasing the province’s water levels. The system’s latest figures show that it has improved its water reservoir by 11% from 69, 8% to 79, and 8% this year.
Mpumalanga occupies the middle of the table with its dam levels recording 87, 8%, a 12, 5% improvement compared to last year’s 75.3%. Inkomati-Usuthu River System on the Lowveld boosted the province’s water levels by filling up the dams to 79, 8%. North West Province’s dams also increased by 12, 5% from 69, 5% to 81, 4% this week.
Pre-winter rains in the Western Cape increased dam levels to 53, 3% compared to 39, and 9% reading of the same period last year. The figure represents a 15% increase in water levels. The Western Cape Water System which supplies Cape Town and its surroundings dropped from 69, 7% to 68, 6% week on week, whilst it is still higher than the 55, and 3% of a year ago. The Breede-Gourits Water Management Area stands at 48, 1% this week, slightly down compared to 48, and 8% a week ago. However, winter rains that are expected at the end of next month are expected once again to fill up the dams.
The drought-prone Eastern Cape dam levels remain unchanged from last week’s recordings of 54, 3%, indicating a continued difficulty with rainfall. For the past four years, large parts of the province have experienced severe drought conditions that reached a crisis level in 2020. This led to the Provincial Government declaring the province a disaster area. The situation is particularly dire in Nelson Mandela Bay where the dams have dropped below 10%.