Concern over dam levels

Despite the recent increase in dam levels following the summer rains, residents are urged to continue saving water.
The water level of Albert Falls Dam steadily increased over the past four months following good rains and releases from Midmar Dam. As of June 18, Albert Falls Dam was at 55%. Albert Falls, the largest dam in the Mgeni system, was the worst affected by water shortages and, at the height of the crisis two years ago, it reached a low of 19%.
Albert Falls is one of four dams in the Mgeni system. Levels of the other dams and the weir in the Mgeni System on June 8 were: Spring Grove: 93.95%, Midmar: 99.47%, Nagle: 65.28%, Inanda: 73.95% and Mearns: 98.79%.
Shami Harichunder, Corporate Stakeholder Manager for Umgeni Water, said the Mgeni system collectively provided an estimated 80% of the water that was required by eThekwini Metro, and supplied all of Msunduzi Municipality’s demand .
“Albert Falls Dam supplies the water needs of a significant part of Durban and this dam is dependent on rainfall and water transfers from Midmar Dam in order to reach a state of adequacy. Downstream, Nagle Dam is dependent on rainfall, or releases or overflows from Albert Falls Dam to augment its resources,” said Harichunder.
According to Harichunder, consumers should continue to use water sparingly as the gazetted and mandatory water restrictions of 15% for domestic, industrial and business, and 50% for irrigation still remain in place.
“The water restrictions of 15% for commercial, industrial and residential and 50% for irrigation were first gazetted by the Department of Water and Sanitation in March 2016 and again gazetted for a year beginning September 2017. These restrictions are legally binding, are still applicable and apply to eThekwini, Msunduzi, uMgungundlovu and parts of Ugu,” said Harichunder.
At the beginning of each dry season, Umgeni Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation run hydrological models to establish risk of non-supply from the system in the event of a drought occurring. Models that were run in May 2017 showed that, based on forecast water demands, the Mgeni system had to be at a minimum combined storage level of 70% at the beginning of May 2018 in order to ensure that there was no risk of prolonged supply failure over the next two years. The system improved to combined storage in excess of 70% on March 14, 2018.
“At a meeting of the Mgeni System Drought Joint Operations Committee, held on May 18, 2018, there was extensive discussion on the status of water resources in the Mgeni System. It was also noted there was generally an improvement in the entire system, although the level of Albert Falls Dam remains of concern to the Department of Water and Sanitation, Umgeni Water and the Mgeni System Drought Joint Operations Committee. Agricultural/irrigation representatives present at this meeting also reported an improvement in water resources due to good rains in the catchments,” Harichunder further added.
The South African Weather Service (SAWS) forecast for May-August 2018 predicts below average rainfall in the early part of this period, improving to above-average to normal in the latter part. The International Research Institute for Climate Society predicts rainfall of 40% – 45% above average from September-November 2018. An analysis of rainfall from July 2017 – April 2018 shows that near normal rainfall was experienced in the interior and eastern parts of South Africa, including KwaZulu-Natal. Between February and March 2018 Umgeni Water’s operational area received above-average rainfall, resulting in significant increases in the levels of dams owned or managed by Umgeni Water.

  AUTHOR
Keroshini Paltu

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