Theewaterskloof dam at full capacity, but water concerns linger elsewhere

We have come a long way since the anxious days of 2017, when a drought in the Western Cape threatened leave taps running dry as dam levels dwindled to almost zero. Three years later, and Theewaterskloof dam – which was then a giant dust bowl of despair – is now 100% full. 

A particularly wet winter bolstered by heavy rains in recent weeks has led to a remarkable recovery for the province’s water security, and the largest dam in the province is now overflowing. Other parts of the country continue to suffer with water shortage though as dams run perilously dry. 

Theewaterskloof dam at 100% capacity  

Theewaterskloof is the Western Cape’s primary feeder dam, and having reached 100% capacity, the province’s dam’s are now collectively 99.7% full. The miraculous recovery can be better appreciated by looking at images taken over a time-lapse, with the dam having been perilously close to empty three years ago when levels were at 12.9%.

The City of Cape Town imposed strict water restrictions in 2016 to meet a target of 600 million litres of water per day, with residents limited to 100 litres of water per day and a ban was imposed on car washing, watering gardens and topping up swimming pools with municipal water.

At the drought’s most severe period, residents were only permitted to use 50 litres per person per day, and plans for a possible “Day Zero” emerged for April 2018 when Cape Town’s municipal water supply was predicted to be shut off completely.

9563843d theewaterskloof dam dan meyer  - Theewaterskloof dam at full capacity, but water concerns linger elsewhere
Theewaterskloof dam was reduced to a dust bowl in 2017. Photo: Dan Meyer

Other provinces suffer water woes  

On the other hand, several areas of the country continue to live with despairing water problems. The Vaal Dam, which is the largest in the province, is down to 32.7% full on Friday morning, and In Beaufort West’s Gamka Dam measured at 21.3% full this week, compared to 34% a year ago. 

The town is currently on Level 3 water restrictions.

Gauteng Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said despite the concerning levels, no water restrictions will be imposed.

“Aside from the less rainfall, we also had high temperatures that contribute to high evaporation. As a developing country, we have also seen a lot of urbanisation which has seen the demand for water increase. This also attributed to a lot of infrastructure development projects,” Ratau said.

In the Eastern Cape, many Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality residents are already experiencing Day Zero, with tanks delivering water to them daily as mismanagement is the Water and Sanitation department, as well as the crippling drought, render residents helpless. 

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