South Africa is faced with water scarcity and heavily relies in sourcing water from the Lesotho mountains aka Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP).
A planned shutdown of the LHWP will commence from 1 October – November. According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, maintenance and inspection will be carried out during this period.
“The shutdown has been gazetted on 13 September, will last for 2 months from 1 October – 20 November. No water transfers to the Vaal River System will be possible over this period” said DWS.
The country’s water infrastructure was in a state of despair with dam levels dangerously low accurately affecting 3 cash generating sectors; agriculture, industrial and municipalities.DWS has warned consumers especially the agricultural sector to cut back on their water usage.
“The LHWP tunnels will be drained for these inspections in order for the maintenance work to be done.”
DWS said it had placed contingency measures to ensure that water supply remains interrupted.
It was doubtful what these contingency plans entailed. The DWS National Integrated Water Information System indicated that of 565 rivers of South Africa’s 146 were categorised as having ‘very low’ flows, while a further 105 are ‘low’ and another 88 ‘moderately low.
According to a water scarcity report commissioned by Water Research Commission, if found that water was extracted from river systems at unsustainable levels which reduced the overall amount of water flowing downstream.
“This affected the ability of the river ecosystem to properly absorb the by-products associated with human life (e.g. industrial discharge or fertilizer run-off)” said the report.
With low rains expected, Gauteng province is the worst to be affected by the shutdown. The water levels of Integrated Vaal River System (IRVS) was floating at 65% compared to last year when it was 80.5%.
Since the planned shutdown is to take effect in mere days, the DWS signalled a heavy warning for farmers around the Liebenbergsvlei River (eastern Free State).
“To this end, no water may be taken from the LiebenbergsvleiRiver for any agricultural purposes between 06:00 on a Saturday until 06:00 on a Monday succeeding that Saturday’” said the department.