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Durban - Residents of drought-stricken municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal have been warned not to fill their swimming pools, wash their cars or water their gardens - or face “harsh consequences”.

Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, was addressing a media briefing at Durban’s Dube Tradeport yesterday where she met mayors from across the province to discuss a drought relief roll-out plan, including payouts from R352 million in relief provided by the national Department of Water and Sanitation.

She said residents who failed to heed the government’s call to conserve water would be fined.

“We are serious and for those who will not heed the call, there will be harsh consequences,” Dube-Ncube said.

“We are in difficult times. It is a period where none among us should look away and pretend we are not in a water shortage crisis,” she said, adding that the water shortage also contributed to unrest as protesting communities demanded access to water.

She said the situation was so dire that 80 percent of the boreholes in parts of the province had dried up.

The drought has adversely affected agriculture, particularly livestock and crops.

A preliminary assessment of the damage caused by the drought to the agricultural sector in the province stood at R400m.

Short-term strategies to deal with the drought included water restrictions, and the upgrading of water treatment works.

In the medium term, boreholes would be drilled. In the long term, the lower Thukela Bulk Water Supply Scheme would be completed next year and feasibility studies would be done on creating a desalination plant north of Durban.

According to figures from Umgeni Water obtained by the Daily News, on January 29, the level of the Hazelmere Dam was at 34 percent and the Nungwane and EJ Smith dams were both at 40 percent.

However the Umzinto Dam, because of rainfalls in the area and augmentation from rivers, was sitting at 101 percent.

Hazelmere Dam was a “serious concern” as it was decreasing by 1 percent every six to seven days.

of the province’s nine district municipalities, the Ugu and iLembe district municipalities were among the hardest hit by drought.

The MEC said the view held by many that the country’s water resources were unlimited needed to change.

She also announced that a relief fund of R10m had been set up to help farmers and communities affected last year by fires in the Harry Gwala District Municipality, particularly the Kokstad area.

Daily News