Cape Town - Cape Town could be headed for another dry winter and possible water restrictions if the weather patterns continue, with above-average rains and floods in the eastern parts of the country and heatwaves and drought conditions in the Northern and Western Cape.
After the extreme flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said the eastern parts of the country were expected to get wetter, with more frequent floods, and the western part to get drier, and have more frequent droughts.
The South African Weather Service’s Seasonal Climate Watch, which provides updates on weather and climatic conditions for the period between April and August, showed that while autumn and winter were not generally wet months, except for those in the western region, the tables turned this year and above-normal rainfall was expected for most parts of the country – except the western region.
Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said: “Current predictions for the next few months are for less than normal rainfall in the south-western parts of the province, which normally receives significant rainfall during early winter.
“This may have an impact on agriculture and could affect their plantings if rains were to start later than usual. If this prediction proves accurate, we could see dam levels dropping lower than they currently are.”
However, Bredell said this was only the beginning of the rain season and it was still too early to say with any accuracy what this winter’s conditions would be.
“We will make decisions, with the lead coming from the Department of Water and Sanitation, on water restrictions at the end of October/beginning of November, at the end of the rain season,” Bredell said.
Piotr Wolski, a senior climate researcher at the Climate System Analysis Group at UCT, said the rainfall and water level situation in the Western Cape did not look too bad at this stage, and that the province had been in much worse predicaments during the month of April over the past decade.
“If this winter is indeed dry and next year we end up with dam levels at 50% or less, then we would have to worry, but at this time there is no cause for concern. However, that does not mean people should be wasting water,” Wolski said.
At present the Western Cape’s total dam capacity is sitting at 68.4%, which Wolski said was completely normal for this time of year despite the apparent lack of rainfall.
The Berg River dam was at 71.1%, Steenbras Lower dam was at 66.1%, Steenbras Upper dam was at 88.8%, Theewaterskloof dam was at 70.5%, Voëlvlei was at 61.4% and Wemmershoek dam was at 55.8%.
The Cape Town Weather Service said the seasonal outlook provided by Saws suggested normal to below-normal precipitation for autumn and winter, but the temperature was predicted to be between normal and above normal.
The weather office said the cut-off low weather systems that passed over the country and brought wet weather to central and eastern parts of the country could develop to the west of the country as well, which would bring wet and potentially severe weather for areas such as the Western Cape.
“It is possible for a dry start to the season, according to the seasonal outlook, but wetter conditions are expected closer to the middle and end of the season,” the weather office said.
Water and sanitation Mayco member Zahid Badroodien said that should there be a dry winter, the City had made allowance for gradual drying due to climate change in its long-term water resource planning, as outlined in the water strategy.
Said Bredell: “Climate change is real, and we should prepare for a future that is hotter and drier. We should always be saving water as it is a precious resource.”