Cape Town - Beaufort West has run out of dam water and may soon also run out of borehole water. The town’s main water source, the Gamka Dam, is completely dry and is now a scene of dead fish and cracked mud.
Residents and businesses are relying solely on borehole and recycled sewerage water for their supply. The little water left on the dam surface is not usable.
Japie van der Linde, the town’s mayor, said they were currently surviving on 32 boreholes. However, he fears the boreholes will soon run dry.
“We are monitoring the boreholes each and every day. Our biggest challenge is that we need more funding to get more boreholes on line. We have two options in Beaufort West which is to impose stricter water restrictions and drill more boreholes.
"The town needs about R23 million to build more water infrastructure and we simply don’t have that money,” he said.
Van der Linde said 40 water tankers had been ordered while there was a possibility of R4.5m donor funding.
“We have ordered 40 water tankers to help when the situation becomes really dire. There are also other boreholes which we will be tapping into. Our budget has been readjusted after an adjustments budget process and we made a saving of about R1.6m from that exercise,” he said. He said national and provincial government urgently needed to intervene.
The Western Cape Department of Local Government said it was working closely with the Beaufort West Municipality to ensure the Central Karoo town’s taps do not run dry. Officials said they needed up to R45m to drill more boreholes.
Department spokesperson James Styan said officials had visited the area to assess the situation.
“We’ve been providing all sorts of support on the ground, but it’s a terrible situation. Please use as little water as possible when passing through the town,” he said.
“Dams in the Central Karoo are running dry. The Gamka Dam, the main source of drinking water for 37 000 people is now officially empty. The town is currently relying on boreholes and a water reclamation plant that can deliver water from treated sewage daily. The province appointed six hydrologists a few months ago who are assisting to monitor groundwater levels,” he said.
Carl Opperman, chief executive of Agri Western Cape said the drought in the Western Cape didn't just hurt or cause suffering, it kills.
“An economic disaster is unfolding in the Western Cape. The Central Karoo and the West Coast districts have been declared disaster areas.
"In fact, it is the first time that the entire Western Cape has been declared a disaster zone. Besides the drought, many areas are experiencing extreme water scarcity,” he said adding that agriculture plays a central role in maintaining stability.