Drought still a reality for Pietermaritzburg

“Much of the torrential rains that were received in the past two weeks occurred in areas outside of catchments. This does not assist dams as rain has to fall in dam catchments in order to positively impact dam levels,”uMgeni Water corporate stakeholder manager, Shami Harichunder explained.
He said Midmar Dam’s rainfall this spring has remained below average and “the lowest it has been in five years.” The October rainfall amounted to 77mm, falling below the 105mm average that is usually expected for the month of October.
As of Monday, Midmar Dam levels were at 50%, showing a two percent increase from last week, however the current dam level is three percent lower than it was this time last year.  Harichunder attributed the two percent increase to run-off into the dam; the weekend  rainfall in the catchment that measured approximately  30mm and the transferring of water from Spring Dam to Midmar.
He said the deteriorating dam levels of Pietermaritzburg’s largest dam, Albert Falls dam, has become a great concern to Umgeni Water. The dam’s level has dropped 19% percent since this period last year and is currently sitting at a low 26%.  Albert Falls supplies water to the uMgungundlovu district and Pietermaritzburg, as well as a large portion of Durban.
“As a result of the static level of Midmar Dam and deteriorating level of Albert Falls Dam, caused by below-average rainfall over a prolonged period, mandatory water restrictions of 15% have been applied in uMgungundlovu, Pietermaritzburg and much of Durban,” Harichunder confirmed.
He explained the depreciating dam levels were a result of the effect of the El Nino climatic phenomenon which brings about severe drought conditions. He said that although the drought had set in three years ago, it intensified in 2015.
The Mgeni water system is in dire need of above average rainfall in order to restore the dam levels to what they were two or three years ago and enable the dams to provide sustainable water supply to Pietermaritzburg and its surrounds.
Fortunately, Harichunder said that weather forecasters at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have predicted good rainfall towards the end of this year and first quarter of 2017, however the current water supply in dams will have to last until then.
“Water restrictions and a reduction of potable water production of 15% at water treatment plants in the Mgeni system by Umgeni Water, have therefore became imperative to prevent the possibility of major dams failing,” he explained.
Highlighting the dire consequences for households and the economy if “stringent water conservation and strict water restrictions” are not adhered to, Harichunder urged all community members to assist in preserving and prolonging the availability of the vital resource.

Jade le Roux

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