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South Africa’s Water Crisis: Nearing Day Zero

06 August 2021

It is not new knowledge that South Africa finds itself in the midst of a water crisis. A lack of rainfall and proactive planning has resulted in the decline of water levels in provinces across the country.

Provinces, like the Eastern Cape, are now feeling the brunt of the crisis with some dam levels have dropped to an all-time low bringing the province closer and closer to day zero unless rainfall increases in the catchment areas.

This day could be approaching sooner than expected for some cities and provinces that have been experienced water shortages from as early as 2015.

Province

Current %

Last Year %

Eastern Cape

50

51

Free State

95

82

Gauteng

97

100

Kwa-Zulu Natal

71

61

Lesotho

58

24

Limpopo

85

67

Mpumalanga

84

72

North West

80

70

Northern Cape

87

91

Swaziland

100

76

Western Cape

72

51

Generated by the Department of Water & Sanitation on Wed, 14 July 2021

Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Eastern Cape, is facing severe water shortages with two of the biggest dams in the region running dry.

The Kouga Dam, the city’s main water supplier, was recently measured at a low 3.98% of its capacity with only 1.5% of this water being usable. This is the lowest recorded water level in the Kouga dam since the dam was constructed from 1959 to 1969.

The dam is able to hold 125,910 million litres at full capacity but is currently on just over 5,000 litres of water. The dam has not been at full capacity since the start of the drought in 2015 marking six years of struggles with water restrictions for the province.

 

Kouga Dam caretaker, Vuyani Dlomo, at Kouga Dam. Photo Credit: Deon Ferreira, The Daily Maverick

According to recent statistics released by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the Impofu dam, the second largest supplier of water to the region, is currently circling at 16.64%.

Trees and vegetation growing in the Impofu Dam. Photo Credit: Deon Ferreira, The Daily Maverick

While the Eastern Cape is not the only province burdened with water shortages, it is definitely the province that is currently most at risk.

Cape Town has only recently recovered from the severe water shortages faced by the Western Cape in 2018 with the prediction of the time for Cape Town to become the first major city in the country to run dry.

Water levels at the main water supply dam, the Theewaterskloof dam, were at a severe low of 13.5% forcing the Cape Town government to turn off taps and impose 25-litre daily water rations.

Theewaterskloof Dam outside Grabouw, Cape Town. Photo Credit: Global Citizen

How you Can Help Save Water

Surviving the water crisis in South Africa is a country-wide effort requiring all citizens to do their part to conserve this much-needed natural resource. Even in the simplest and smallest ways possible, we encourage our fellow South Africans to help save water:

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