File picture: Anton Malan, Free Images

Johannesburg - South Africa’s biggest water utility started restrictions in the largest city and capital because of increased demand spurred by persistent high temperatures.

Residents of Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Ekurhuleni municipality in the eastern Gauteng province can’t use hosepipes or sprinklers from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice as supply is under “severe strain,” Rand Water Services said on the government news agency’s website Wednesday. “Should the restrictions not be adhered to, the situation may worsen.”

South Africa is enduring its worst drought in 23 years, slashing corn, wheat and sugar production. More than 500 000 people in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal are facing severe hunger as a result of the drought, according to World Vision, a humanitarian organisation.

Dry weather may continue through the summer months of November to February, the period of highest rainfall, and into the autumn, the South African Weather Service said Wednesday in a report on its website.

Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi are also experiencing dry weather. El Nino, a global weather pattern that causes dry conditions in the sub-Saharan region, is on course to be the strongest since 1997-98.