Dramatic satellite images show Graaff-Reinet’s supply dam drying up – and three other SA dams on the verge of running empty

Business Insider SA

While the City of Cape Town may have escaped Day Zero, other parts of the country are not faring as well.

Case in point: Graaff-Reinet, the fourth oldest settlement in South Africa, which has been around since 1786. Here 3,392 households with a population of 37,670 residents have been left stranded after the Nqweba dam, which supplies water to all areas of the town and surrounds, dried up. 

At the beginning of October their only source of water was from 28 boreholes until humanitarian organisation Gift of The Givers trucked in teams to the Dr Beyers Naudé municipality to bring in relief.

Gift of the Givers committed to three superlinks laden with water, three water tankers, a drilling machine, and has sent a renowned hydrologist Gideon Groenewald to the area, then drilled five boreholes that have yielded 102,000 litres per day, collectively, reports News24.

Water shortages  are not uncommon in South Africa; it is the 30th driest country in the world, and current severe water shortages have been caused by a combination of years of bad management and drought.

According to the latest National Biodiversity Assessment 2018, by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, average temperature increases of more than 1°C have been observed in the past 50 years. The researchers say extreme weather droughts, heavy rainfall, coastal storm surges, strong winds and wildfires is set to intensify for years to come. 

Data from the Department of Water and Sanitation shows several smaller dams, like Graaf-Reneitt’s Nqweba dam, have or are on the verge of going dry:

Rhenosterkop Dam: currently 0.7%, last year this time at 4.4%.

The 204.6 million cubic metre Rhenosterkop Dam is located on the Elands River, part of the Olifants River basin, in Mpumalanga. The dam mainly serves for municipal and industrial use.


Middle Letaba Dam: currently 3.6%, last year this time at 9.7%.

Middle Letaba is one of the two largest dams in Limpopo. It supplies water to residents between Giyani and Elim, serving well over 25,000 people. The Mopani District Municipality imposed water restrictions in November 2018. 

Tzaneen Dam: currently 7.7%, last year this time at 25.6%.

The Tzaneen Dam supplies domestic water to Polokwane and Tzaneen, and irrigation water to the Letaba valley. 

Nqweba Dam: currently 0.7%, last year this time at 8.2%.

When full the Nqweba Dam can hold 44.8 million cubic meters. It serves residents of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape. 

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