VAAL Dam, which supplies about 20million people in South Africa with clean running water, might run dry.
This emerged yesterday during the launch of Water Week by Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa.
Department of Water Affairs authorities also warned that despite the relatively good rains over the past 16 years, the possibility of drought in the Vaal River catchment area is becoming greater with every passing year.
Together with members of the Vaal River System (VRS), authorities warned that such a dry spell could be disastrous for millions of people as well as the environment if not properly managed.
Molewa said the above average rains experienced for the past 16 years in the Vaal River catchment area should not give users in this important supply area a false sense of water security.
Molewa said one way of effectively dealing with the impending dire situation was through the eradication of unlawful irrigation by the year 2013.
Yesterday, Molewa issued Lucas Skeepas, one of the richest farmers near the Vaal Dam, with a directive to stop taking water unlawfully from the river.
Skeepas is one of many farmers in the area accused by the department of stealing water from the dam and using it to irrigate their crops.
"Our message to all those people stealing our water is clear," said Molewa. "We will find you and we will prosecute you," she said.
Molewa further said the unlawful use of water by crop farmers was putting the Vaal River System water supply balance at significant risk.
"From the work done to date, it has become clear that regulations to enforce the measurement of water use for irrigation purposes are required for efficient and effective action against unlawful water users.
"Such regulations would reduce the burden of proof of the responsible authority to determine the lawfulness of a water use as prescribed under the National Water Act," Molewa said.
The minister said her department would continue with the implementation of the Water Conservation and Water Demand Management to achieve further targeted savings of 180million cubic metres per annum in municipal supply by 2015.