Half of South Africa could be declared an official drought zone.
Officials in the Western Cape, Free State, Limpopo and the Northern Cape are currently considering applying to be declared drought areas. KwaZulu-Natal was officially given drought status late last year.
The Department of Water Affairs and the various KZN water boards said the country was staring water restrictions in the face unless something was done.
Already, municipalities across KwaZulu-Natal have applied strict water restrictions, including not allowing residents to wash their cars or water their gardens. Other provinces could follow suit as the typically dry winter season approaches.
Water Affairs Department provincial director Ashley Starkey said: “The recent fires in the Western Cape are an indication of below average rainfall and severe dryness.
“The Western Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo are considering going the KwaZulu-Natal route in terms of drought declaration. The reasons are the anticipated below-average rainfall and that the majority of individual dams have very low [water] levels,” he said.
And the situation could get worse.
Sibusiso Makhanya, CEO of Mhlanthuze Water, said: “The situation is not dire yet, but it’s heading there if we don’t get rain before winter.”
According to research by the Institute of Security Studies released last year, South Africa was already the 30th-driest country in the world.
“South Africa is facing a potential water crisis.
“Average annual rainfall in South Africa is only 495mm, whereas the world average is 1 033mm,” said the report, titled “Parched Prospects: The emerging water crisis in South Africa”.
On top of this, South Africans use far more water – 235l per person per day – than the global average of 173l per person per day.
According to departmental figures, not a single dam in KwaZulu-Natal currently has as much water as it did a year ago.
To deal with the problems, officials have already started pumping from fuller rivers into some of these dams, spending R19-million to move upwards of 14million litres of water a day.