Vaal dam still in crisis despite rain

Despite the recent rain, the integrated Vaal River system is still in crisis
Despite the recent rain, the integrated Vaal River system is still in crisis
Image: 123RF/Surut Wattanamaetee

The week-long rains Gauteng has been experiencing don’t mean much for filling up the integrated Vaal river system that supplies Gauteng and Eskom with water.

This is according to water and sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau who spoke to Sowetan about the continuing reduction of water in the Vaal Dam. Water levels for the dam was at 42.2% last week and is now at approximately 39%, meaning more than 1% of water is being lost a week. 

“It is a reality that the rains started late. We didn’t have rain at the start of the rainy season which was in September and we have been experiencing high temperatures which lead to evaporation of water. Then because of the high temperatures, people consume more water than normal,” he said.

Ratau said even though Gauteng has been experiencing consistent rain for a week, the water that is captured in the province flows west, towards Hartbeespoort in the North West while the integrated Vaal River System is supplied with water from the Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape and from the Lesotho Highlands Project.

“People also need to understand that the Vaal Dam is one of 14 dams which make up the integrated Vaal river system. It is not just the Vaal Dam that supplies water to Gauteng,” he said.

Ratau said late rains throughout the country mean that it will take longer for dams to fill up.

“The ground is parched and the rivers need to be filled up first before water flows into dams. The ecosystem will always be provided with water first.”

Currently, the entire integrated Vaal river system which makes up the 14 dams is at approximately 55%.

“One week of rain is not enough to fill up dams. We need it to rain consistently for a long period of time, from September to April and it needs to specifically rain in the catchment areas,” said Ratau.

He said the department is expecting rain in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, which is one of the key catchment areas to help fill up the system.

“Unfortunately we are having difficulties that the weather will clear on Thursday. If we start experiencing high temperatures again we will see a continued reduction of water,” he said.

Ratau said South Africans need to accept that we are in a water scarce country and to responsibly use water.

“How we use water impacts our future, so be conscious in your usage of water, protect infrastructure and prevent issues such as vandalism. Pollution of water also reduces water that is available for us to use,” he said.

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