Durban - With dam levels still shrinking across the province, the government has warned residents of Durban, Pietermaritizburg, Howick and the upper South Coast to brace for compulsory 15% domestic and industrial water restrictions unless there is an immediate and noticeable drop in water consumption.
Irrigation farmers face a 50% reduction in water supply in these areas.
It is understood that some municipalities could announce the first restrictions this weekend, affecting up to 5 million people (900 000 households) supplied by the uMngeni catchment system.
Angela Masefield, a senior official of the Department of Water and Sanitation in Durban, said they had learnt valuable lessons from the poor public response when people in Ballito and other parts of the North Coast were urged to curb water demand voluntarily from the rapidly shrinking Hazelmere Dam last year.
She hinted strongly on Wednesday that unless the public produced rapid and meaningful water savings in KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest cities and towns, the department would have no alternative but to restrict the volume of water released for treatment from Midmar, Albert Falls, Inanda and Nagle dams.
The storage level at Midmar Dam on Wednesday was down to less than 47% (the lowest level in 30 years), Albert Falls was at 37.7%, Inanda Dam just over 80%, Nagle Dam at 86% and Spring Grove at 72%.
Midmar Dam is dropping at about 3% a month and Albert Falls at 4%, despite recent rains.
Water authorities fear Midmar and Albert Falls will be dry by the end of the year if consumption continues at the current rate.
Masefield said local authorities in Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Howick and towns along the upper South Coast had all been directed last month to achieve a 15% saving in domestic and industrial water use and a 50% saving in irrigation use with immediate effect.
“We have learnt a lot from what happened at Hazelmere – so I think we will be able to respond quicker (if Durban and Pietermartizburg fail to curb consumption rapidly),” she said, noting that her department was forced eventually to restrict the volume of water drawn from Hazelmere when the public failed to respond meaningfully to calls for voluntary reductions.
“Compulsory restriction is not a desirable way to go – but we are trying to be proactive by implementing relatively mild restrictions so there is less impact on the economy,” she said, adding that a joint operations committee was meeting this week to assess whether municipalities had achieved significant water savings.
The department was also about to gazette measures to ensure the enforcement of water restrictions.
Considering advice from local meteorologists, water authorities believe consumers need to prepare for a protracted drought, based on the recent high temperatures and below- average rainfall associated with the El Niño weather phenomenon.
The Department of Water Affairs is urging people to:
Fill a 2 litre soft drink bottle with water and sand and put it in your toilet cistern to reduce the flush volume by 20%.
Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Every flush uses up to 12 litres of water.
Don’t fill your kettle to the brim, just heat what you need.
Take a five-minute shower instead of a bath.
Use low-flow showerheads, dual-flush toilet mechanisms and water-efficient washing machines.
Use water from baths and washing machines to flush the toilet.
Turn the tap off between washing your face, shaving or brushing teeth.
Use a bucket instead of a hose to wash cars.