Water and sanitation dept to implement 80% water restrictions in Eastern Cape

To avoid a "natural disaster, the Department of Water and Sanitation is expected to implement an 80% water restriction in the Eastern Cape.

The decision was made after the department's regional head Portia Makhanya, met with farmers from the drought-stricken towns of Kouga, Hankey, Patensie, Jeffreys Bay, Oyster Bay and Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.

According to the department's spokesperson Sputnik Ratau, the farmers in the area had initially asked for a 60% water restriction. 

The department's weekly report on national dam levels revealed that the Kouga Dam had dropped to 6.8%. 

Ratau said it sparked fears that unless it rained soon, there would be no water. 

He said the report painted a "bleak picture" of the water situation in the Algoa region, including the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, where the drought has gripped the area for more than a year. 

"So dire is the situation in the region that Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation has raised questions about the department's interventions to avert Day Zero."

Ratau said for a short-term solution, the department has provided the Kouga local municipality with two 18 000-litre water tanks as emergency water. 

He said the water resources planning systems directorate would monitor the situation monthly and would also provide expert advice, adding that it also provided expert advice on groundwater exploration. 

"High-level Bulk Water Master Plans have been compiled as well as the All Town Studies report to assist the municipality with their medium and long-term solutions. 

"Water restrictions are being enforced in accordance with the Drought Operating Rules for each dam."

Ratau said R1.09m had been allocated to the municipality from the first-round drought funding allocations which were used for ground water exploration in Hankey and Patensie. 

An 800-metre pipeline from a farmer's borehole was also installed to provide them with water, should Kouga run dry.  Billboards that explained the dire situation had been put up in strategic areas of affected towns.   Makhanya appealed to the affected communities to adhere to water restrictions and to use water sparingly.

"Without the co-operation of the affected communities, including the farmers, we will find it difficult to reduce the risk of water shortage in the Gamtoos Valley," Makhanya said.