Water restrictions begin in Gauteng

Rand Water, which supplies Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni with drinking water, has announced that water restrictions will begin immediately owing to “increased demand caused by persistent high temperatures”.

“The lack of rainfall in Gauteng is exacerbating the situation. The high water demand will cause localised problems in the City of Johannesburg, City of Tshwane and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality.”

The restrictions are being implemented until further notice and mean no excess outside use of water is permitted between 6am and 6pm.

The announcement comes as the entire country moves into the grips of the worst drought in 23 years. The past two droughts coincided with El Niño weather patterns in the Pacific Ocean, which warms the world’s largest body of water and creates drought in much of the southern hemisphere.

Its appearance in 1982 and 1991 led to two year-long droughts across South Africa.


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) warned last month that El Niño would add to the damage being done by a warming climate. Its research said that “dramatic increases in the number of heatwave days and high fire-danger days, and reduced soil-moisture availability, are consistently projected”.

The researchers said this year’s El Niño, which warms the Eastern Pacific and leads to floods and drought worldwide, had already increased sea temperatures in that part of the world by 2°C. This would only increase and would probably break records for ocean temperatures in that part of the world.  

As a result, the team predicted that this year’s summer would be the hottest South Africa had ever experienced.

The South African Weather Service warned in early September that “extremely dry and hot conditions” were likely to persist throughout the summer. The driving force behind this was an unusually strong El Niño, it said.

Groups such as Nasa have been releasing data that shows the past 12 months were the hottest such period ever recorded and that September was probably the hottest September on record. 

Research released earlier in September by the CSIR said El Niño would decrease rainfall by up to 150mm on average. South Africa’s average rainfall is around 450mm a year.

This has traditionally pushed South Africa to engineer itself out of water problems. Large-scale water transfer schemes take water from where it rains the most to catchments where there is little rain. 

The Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme was built to supply Gauteng and agricultural areas in the surrounding provinces with water. The second phase of the scheme is under construction, but has already been delayed by at least two years.

“Many parts of the country have either reached or are fast approaching the point at which all of the financially viable freshwater resources are fully utilised and where building new dams will not address the challenges,” the department of water affairs said in its 2013 strategy report.

With the national drought meaning water cannot be pumped from elsewhere, five provinces have already been declared disaster drought areas, with rainfall in the most recent planting season coming in much lower than expected. 

The drought has exacerbated pressures that are already hitting the farming community and neighbouring countries, which normally export to South Africa in times of drought, have also been hard hit.  

The World Food Programme’s most recent bulletin said: “Significant drops in crop production are expected in southern parts of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Madagascar, Lesotho and South Africa.” This was because of the “uncharacteristically low” rainfall being experienced in the region, it said. 

This was coupled with a steady drop in crop yields in the area over the past five years. South Africa’s 31% drop in maize production was therefore a big problem for Southern Africa, it said. “This poses a serious cause for concern, as it might trigger higher food prices in the short term and a [food] deficit in surrounding countries.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

Dust erosion harms SA’s food bowl

If micronutrients are blown away and the soil dries, the Free State maize crop is threatened

‘People the same as pigs’ in the Vaal

The water and sanitation department has taken over the clean-up project while sewage continues to pollute the Vaal River and Emfuleni municipality

Environmental destruction is the human rights challenge of our time: Archbishop Tutu

World leaders must choose between life or death for humanity, say climate justice activists at 10th Desmond Tutu international peace lecture

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Sewage still flows into ‘Poo Lake’

Despite Ekurhuleni spending R2.8-million on a sewer line to prevent further damage to a pump station, raw waste has contaminated a wetland

Editorial: Stop looting Mlangeni’s legacy

Covid-19 has exposed how widespread corruption tore the heart out of our institutions, from parastatals to hospitals and infrastructure projects.
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Eastern Cape universities concerned by rising Covid cases

Fort Hare says 26 more students have tested positive while Walter Sisulu University says some of its students have been admitted to hospital.

SAA in talks to recoup R350-million in blocked funds...

The cash-strapped national carrier is in the process of recouping its blocked funds from Zimbabwe, which could go towards financing the airline’s business rescue plan

NSFAS’s woes do not help its mandate

Nehawu wants the scheme’s administrator, Randall Carolissen, to be removed

Unions cry foul over SABC dismissal costs and retrenchments

Broadcaster bodies say claims that a recent skills audit is unrelated to retrenchments are ‘irrational’
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday