The smell of winter is in the air, but not enough rain could mean another dry winter on the cards and lead to the raising of water restrictions. File picture
Cape Town - The clouds are grey, the smell of winter in the air, but not enough rain to allay fears that another dry winter is on the cards that could lead to the raising of water restrictions.

With winter rains in the province still not coming in buckets, dam levels continue to drop. Statistics show the average water level for all dams in the Western Cape currently stand at 36.4% while dams supplying the City of Cape Town stand at an average of 48.6%.

“The latest levels of dams across the Western Cape show a continued decline as we head towards the start of the winter season which is the regular rainfall period for the province,” said James-Brent Styan, spokesperson for the MEC of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell.

“At the moment the current dam level stands at 36.4%.

“Last year, this time dam levels were sitting at 17.1%,” he said.

He said the situation in the Karoo also remained dire.

“The drought remains unabated and the provincial government will be visiting the area later this week to talk about various interventions.

“We also welcome the commitment from the national government to raise the Clanwilliam Dam wall,” said Styan.

AgriSA in the Western Cape have also raised concerns about the dry season.

“We are concerned about the low rainfall but we are hopeful for sufficient autumn and winter rainfall. We don’t want to be in the same situation we were last year,” said Jansen Rabi, the body’s head of natural resources.

He said over the past few months they have seen a significant amount of job losses due to the drought.

“The economy is also at a very sensitive stage and we should be aware of the financial contribution that farmers give to the economy.

“We are particularly worried about the Karoo areas where it is in a dire state and affecting small commercial farmers,” Rabi added.

Climatologists, however, have urged the public not to panic.

“We have had above average rainfall and usually this time January, February, March is a very dry time, said Peter Johnston, climate scientist at UCT.

“If the dam levels decrease then we could see the return of water restrictions but its highly unlikely,” he added.

Johnston said there was a slight improvement since three years ago when Cape Town experienced its first drought crisis.

According to the SA Weather Service ,light rain was expected yesterday over the south west.

Mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said: “Cape Town traditionally receives the majority of its rainfall over the winter months, and as such we will reassess the level of water restrictions once we have a clearer idea of what will be necessary after the traditionally rainy season.”

MEC of Economic Opportunities in the Western Cape Beverley Schäfer said it was too early to sound the alarm.

“We are monitoring the situation. I don’t want to raise the red flags just yet. We’ll continue to watch the dam levels and I am hopeful we will get good rainfall by Easter,” she said.

Schäfer believed Cape Town could handle the crisis now.

“We are more prepared and more resilient to handle anything including a water crisis.”


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Cape Argus