A boy drinks water from a pump. Picture: REUTERS
A boy drinks water from a pump. Picture: REUTERS

The Department of Water and Sanitation may decide to end water restrictions for summer rainfall areas in May‚ but for now they will remain in place.

This is according to department deputy director-general Trevor Balzer‚ who addressed journalists on national dam levels at the Vaal Dam on Wednesday.

Balzer said that this week the national levels were at 50.7%‚ which was an indication that week-on-week levels had risen only 1.9 percentage points.

There had been an increase in water levels in all provinces‚ with the exception of the Western Cape‚ where levels were still falling‚ he said.

This week‚ the Vaal Dam in Gauteng is 52.8% full‚ compared with 44.4% the previous week‚ but Balzer said the Vaal was a system made up of 14 dams that needed to be looked at together. The Vaal Dam system is sitting at 58.5%.

"As a result of rain since January 9‚ we’ve gained 395-million cubic metres [across the system]. We’ve picked up more than 100-million cubic metres that ... was released from Sterkfontein‚" he said.

Over December‚ Sterkfontein Dam’s levels dropped by 7% as the department transferred water from the Free State source to lift the Vaal’s levels‚ which were threatening to fall below the dangerous 25% mark.

The Vaal Dam system accounts for about one-third of the country’s total installed water capacity.

Balzer warned that the public should not assume that the recent rains in Gauteng were an invitation to relax their water-saving measures.

It could take about 10 more rain events‚ like that seen last week‚ before the Vaal Dam is at a comfortable level‚ he said.

In Gauteng‚ water restrictions mean domestic users must make a 15% water saving‚ while agriculture must save 20%.

The Johannesburg and Tshwane metropolitan municipalities are faring well in meeting the targets. This week‚ Johannesburg was saving 14.4%‚ while Tshwane was at 21.1%.

However, Balzer said Ekurhuleni was one of the consistently poor-performing municipalities that was battling to hit the target.

"The message we had in November last year in terms of the dire situation is the same message we are giving today‚" he said‚ urging the public to comply with restrictions.

Balzer said water restrictions would be lifted only after a thorough evaluation of the situation‚ which would be done in May.

"At best‚ we would only reconsider [restrictions] when the system is at about 70%."

While there is a long way to go‚ the necessary gains are not impossible.

"In December 1997‚ the dam was also at 25%. By the middle of February‚ it was at 118%‚" Balzer said.

TMG Digital

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