South Africa’s battle for portable water to feed its industries, people and livestock is going to get prolonged and tougher with the country’s economic center, Gauteng, particularly threatened.
Our biggest water resource – the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, is fighting real hard to keep up with the demand for water in South Africa.
The South African Weather Service says an end to the drought is not yet in sight. This implies that South Africa’s battle for portable water will continue indefinitely and might even get worse before it gets better.
Lesotho has been hit hard by the drought affecting more than 700,000 of its people, according to aid agencies. Their situation is made worse by the fact that most of the country’s water goes to South Africa.
But it is this water source that keeps South Africa’s economy and its power station (many of which are situated in Mpumalanga) going.
Water Affairs Ministry spokesman Mlimandlela Ndamase stated that the Katse and Mohale dams, which supply the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, were at 59.7% and 25.5% of their capacity respectively.
The Ministry spokesman told The Times on Friday that the Katse and Mohale dams, which supply the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, were at 59.7% and 25.5% of their capacity respectively. Mohale is a feeder dam for Katse.
Minister for agriculture Senzeni Zokwana said on Friday that South Africa’s food security was seriously threatened by the drought.
He said maize farmers, who had missed the harvesting period because of the failure of the rains, had been encouraged to plant other crops that can withstand the weather.The consequences being that South Africa might have to import 10million tons of maize to meet the needs of the people. Rural Development Minister Gugile Nkwinti proffers that South Africa might have to supply Lesotho with food as part of “a standing agreement on realizing water from their dams.”
Ndamase assuaged concerns about water shortages in South Africa saying that even though there was a drought, it did not mean that there was no water.
“We still have dams that are full, with Katse dam, which is still at a healthy level, feeding the Vaal River system, which is 70% full”.
“The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is just one of the water feeder systems to Gauteng. The entire Vaal River system is secure.”
Still on the issue, Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said the utility was not concerned by the drought.
“Of our four hydro-power schemes, three are operational, and the fourth, at Gariep Dam, has been shut down for precautionary measures, although Water Affairs has told us that we can continue operating it”.
“Our other power stations are able to compensate for this until the water situation improves.”
Phasiwe said Eskom would only consider the water situation in Lesotho critical if dam levels in South Africa drop to 30% of capacity. Eskom Implied that South Africa’s battle for portable water is not as threatening as we think.
However, experts chose to believe otherwise and are sounding alarm bells.
Ted Blom who is an Energy analyst said the low levels of Lesotho’s dams was a big threat to this country’s survival.
“Although we can make do for now without hydro-power from Mozambique we cannot do so without the water from Lesotho.
“If the Katse dam drops anywhere near 25% of capacity there will be hell to pay, because Katse feeds all of Gauteng. It also feeds the cooling systems of the Mpumalanga power stations, which provide up to 95% of South Africa’s power.
“If we can’t keep those power stations cool with millions of litres of water an hour, there will be blackouts.”
Water expert Anthony Turton, also added to the analysis and said that “The Lesotho Highland Water project is the water tower of Gauteng.”
Turton went on to say that once a dam had fallen to 60% level of its capacity, the decrease from then will be rapid.
He said that Mohale, at 25% of capacity, was getting to the point at which it could no longer function.