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It might be difficult to imagine a water-supply crisis in Gauteng midway through the rainy season in the Southern African interior. The dams, after all, are more or less full. But when electricity is added to water, the picture changes. Where it matters most to the economy — in the integrated Vaal river system (IVRS) — the dam levels are at an average of 71.3%, almost exactly the same level this time in 2017 (71.2%). This number should be reassuring to those alarmed by the relatively low rainfall for the first half of the season, and by the SA Weather Service’s forecasts of even lower figures and higher temperatures in the second half. But averages can be misleading, and not all dams are equal. While the Vaal Dam, which supplies about 15-million people with drinking water, is at 77% from 2017’s 79.4%, it is down a full percentage point from a week ago. Still, it would seem adequate if the balance between supply and demand was maintained. To assess this ratio, a closer look at the st...

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