Industries in peril as drought drags on

Johannesburg - Local industries raised concerns on the impact of the drought and water restrictions on their bottom lines, warning that some sectors might be forced to close.

The Beverages Association of SA (BevSA), the manufacturing sector and emerging farmers said water restrictions had provided their industries with fresh challenges to keep their production going.

File picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

BevSA’s executive director, Mapule Ncanywa, said the restrictions had forced water intensive industries to review their strategies going forward.

Ncanywa said while the industry had thus far managed to produce with less water as the restrictions prevailed, the beverages makers remained worried as they relied on water for their production.

“We have not been receiving sufficient flow rates in some areas and this has been problematic to an extent that we have not been running (at) full capacity on some production lines,” Ncanywa said.

She said BevSA would continue to engage with the municipalities involved and they were monitoring the situation with the members closely.

More shortages

The Vaal Dam, which supplies Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, is about 34 percent full, leading to municipalities setting a target of 15 percent in water consumption.

Experts have warned that if it does not rain in the next few weeks, residents of Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga could face more shortages.

The Department of Water and Sanitation put the average water levels in dams nationally at 53 percent compared with 73 percent in the same period last year, citing KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), Limpopo, Free State, North West and Northern Cape, as the worst affected.

Paul Makube, an agricultural economist at First National Bank, said even cane growers had been affected by the restrictions.

Makube warned that farmers could be forced to use less land to preserve water as the drought continued to cause havoc in the agricultural sector. “It is too early to say how much the production will be affected by the restrictions. But it would definitely lead to lower yields. The farmers will do well to use irrigation at night when the evaporation level is very low.”

The uMgeni system in KZN has experienced below average rainfall over the past 30 months, resulting in some of these dams remaining consistently below 50 percent.

Manufacturing Circle executive director Philippa Rodseth said manufacturers who used water as part of production had experienced a slowdown in production.

Rodseth said plants that were located in water-stressed regions had changed production runs or sequences, which impacted on output. She said most had contingency measures to deal with the crisis.

“The crisis has placed focus on efficiency of use of water as a resource. Measures include increasing access to underground water, recycling water where possible, implementing on-site storage and rain water harvesting, installing measurement systems and educating employees on the need to reduce consumption.”

National African Farmers’ Union KwaZulu-Natal chairman Mandla Buthelezi said the situation was threatening the survival of emerging farmers.