Theewaterskloof Dam Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA

Cape Town - Cool heads and steady leadership are needed to mobile and support farmers and residents as south-western parts of South Africa grapple with a drought-related water crisis, farm group Agri SA said on Friday.

“As the threat of our water sources running dry begins to materialise, panic is beginning to set in. Cool heads and steady leadership are needed in times such as these,” Agri SA said in a statement .

It warned that the agricultural sector was an obvious and easy target for blame as the largest user of water, but pointed out that the Western Cape region was a key exporter of produce and that food-processing accounted for 25 percent of South Africa's manufacturing output.

The group said water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane had acknowledged after a recent meeting that Agri SA and government were allies in dealing with the prevailing drought crisis in Western Cape.

“Certain hard realities had to be addressed, including the need for improved water use management," it said.

In certain identified areas, farmers were "undeniably known to be abstracting and using water unlawfully and to the detriment of their neighbours and the province as a whole".

"Agri SA will not defend the indefensible and strongly condemns the unlawful abstraction, storage and use of water by all persons," the group said.

African News Agency/ANA