Major water risk

One big drought in the Vaal River catchment area over the next eight years could jeopardise the region’s agricultural and industrial output, senior Eskom and Sasol managers have warned.

Eskom uses 330 million cubic metres of water a year to keep its power stations running

Speaking at the end of the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, they said the period from now until 2020, when Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) starts delivering water to the Vaal, was one of “major risk”.

While a drought would not necessarily pose a threat to the two corporations’ ability to generate power and manufacture fuel – both Eskom and Sasol are deemed “strategic water users” and unlikely to have their supply curtailed – the same would not apply to others.

Particularly vulnerable would be large industrial water users, agriculture and municipalities located in and around the country’s economic heartland, Gauteng.

Eskom’s general manager for water and environmental operations, Nandha Govender, told Sapa a drought would see the region “pushing the boundaries” of available water supply.

“The capacity of the Vaal system is a major risk. We see the crucial period being between now and 2020, when Phase II of the LHWP starts delivering water.

“The risk lies with large industrial water users, agriculture and the municipalities… It’s a situation we don’t want to get into.”

Govender also said although 2020 was the date set by government for Phase II to start delivering more water to the region, large projects of this nature often missed such targets, and the first water might only start flowing from Lesotho in 2021, or 2022. Continue reading

Culprits of unlawful water usage

“Whilst unlawful water use by some irrigators is a concern that should be addressed, various other factors pose an even bigger threat to the availability and sufficiency of good quality water to society. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the irrigation sector was singled out as culprit with the launch of the National Water Week,” says Johannes Möller, president of Agri SA.

The quality of various water systems in South Africa is in a poor condition.

The Department of Water Affairs had since the enactment of the National Water Act in 1998 failed to implement sections of this legislation pertaining to the institutional capacity required to manage the country’s water resources.

“After 12 years the department only started in June 2010 with the verification and validation processes by appointing a professional service provider to assist them in addressing unlawful water use in the Vaal River system. This will only be completed in two years time,” Möller says. Continue reading

Water theft contributes to SA’s increasing crisis

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 08 March 2011

Massive water theft by farmers from the Vaal River, and the inability of municipalities to maintain infrastructure, are two of the main causes that will push South Africa into a water crisis in less than a decade.

By 2013, water demand on the Vaal River system will outstrip the available yield

A paper by the South African Institute of Civil Engineering water division chairman, Dr Chris Herold, alleges that farmers steal about 175-million cubic metres of water from the Vaal, contributing to a significant reduction in the river’s yield.

“The water demands on the Vaal River have long exceeded the assured yield of the catchment. It has been publicly stated that by 2013, the water demand on the Vaal River system will outstrip the available yield,” Herold said.

“What is not commonly known is that this is based on achieving a 15% saving in water demand. To date no noticeable saving has been realised.”

This implies that we are already living with a 2% supply deficit in the Vaal system, and by 2013 we will face a 6% supply deficit, which would rise continually until 2019, when it would reach a staggering 11%, said the paper. Continue reading

Orange River flood warning

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 January 2011

The water affairs department on Tuesday warned of flooding along the banks of the Orange River in the Northern Cape.

Orange River in flood 2010 - Upington. Photo by Daniel Swart

The department said flooding could occur downstream from the confluence of the Vaal and Orange rivers.

“Residents are urged to take extra care as fast rising water levels are expected,” the department said in a statement.

A flood peak of 5 140m³ per second was expected for Upington on Thursday.

In the Vaal and Orange River catchment, the Vaal Dam is currently 101% full and the outflow has been reduced to 1 120m³ per second.

A total of 10 flood gates remained open. Four were closed early on Tuesday.

The capacity of the Bloemhof dam was at 98% and was expected to increase to 101% by Thursday.

At the Gariep Dam, the outflow was 2 300m³ per second and the capacity was 117%.

The Vanderkloof Dam stood at 113% with an outflow of 2 430m³ per second.

– Sapa

Vaal Dam outflow at 90 times normal

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 January 2011

Four more Vaal Dam sluice gates were opened on Thursday afternoon following an increase in the water inflow into the dam, Emfuleni Local Municipality said.

The water levels downstream of Vaal Dam are expected to reach levels last seen during the flood of 1996

“This brings the number of opened gates to 17 since December 16,” spokesperson Klaas Mofomme said in a statement.

He said the municipality would like to warn community members to continue being on high alert for possible flooding.

“However, it must be emphasised that our joint operation committee team, which includes the emergency services and disaster management teams, is on high alert to provide the necessary services should the need arise.”

Mofomme said the outflow into the Vaal River was now standing at 2.7 million litres per second and the water outflow is about 90 times higher than the normal flow.

All boat owners were advised to remove their boats from the water even if they were in boathouses on the river. Continue reading