South Africa is facing its worst drought since 1904, with many rivers running dry, water shortages spreading and temperatures already reaching into the low 40 degrees C. And there’s no end in sight.
The Vaal Dam, the major dam for the province of Gauteng and its capital Johannesburg is at only 26% capacity. To maintain water supply, the Government has now authorised the release of water from the associated Sterkfontein Dam in Free State and has also cut water to Gauteng by 15%. This means that some areas are without any water at all for hours at a time.
Low levels in many water reservoirs means that water rationing or cuts are happening throughout the province and Level 3 water restrictions are on the cards for Joburg, which means that areas will be left without any water for periods of time. Current Level 2 restrictions mean no garden watering between 6am and 6pm and no filling of swimming pools. Although the Government has urged residents to change their behaviour and conserve water, the drop in use is nowhere near enough.
Game reserves and national parks are also suffering badly in the drought, with some relocating rare and endangered animals to areas with better water supplies or trucking in water or pumping bore water to main waterholes. In Kruger National Park, several hundred hippos and buffalos were killed in September as animal numbers had reached record highs and were unsustainable in the low food resources caused by the drought.
Cape Town has been had a hosepipe and automatic sprinkler ban in place since the end of October.
Ironically Joburg has just been hit by a massive storm (November 9, 2016) that’s caused local flash flooding but it will do little to help the long term recovery from this severe drought.
Neighbouring Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi Lesotho and southern Madagascar are also suffering from severe drought, and UN predictions are that dry weather will continue and the drought will peak across southern Africa in January 2017.