No relaxing of water restrictions until at least May

The Department of Water and Sanitation may take a decision on ending water restrictions for summer rainfall areas in May‚ but for now they will remain in place.

That 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 sat at 50.7%‚ which is an indication that week-on-week levels have only risen by 1.9 percentage points.

All provinces have seen increases in water levels‚ with the exception of the Western Cape‚ where levels are 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 that the Vaal is a system made up of 14 dams that need 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 what 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 recent rains in Gauteng were not an indication for the public 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%.

Balzer said Ekurhuleni‚ however‚ was one of the consistently poor-performing municipalities‚ 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 will only be lifted after a thorough evaluation of the situation‚ which will 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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