An excellent start to 2011

At the beginning of November 2010, I wrote a post about how the climate in our area had changed, and the fact that we were experiencing the worst drought in many years. Just how many was a little confusing. The local newspaper said it was around 60 years; the municipal records said that the last time there was so little rain was in 1903 i.e. over 100 years ago. Many years in any case, whichever statistic you choose to believe. In those years the size of the town had also increased exponentially. In fact, even though I always refer to it as “our town”, it is actually classified as a small city now. So water consumption had increased dramatically too.

In December 2009 , the municipality of our town sent out a newsletter to the residents, to explain just how dire the situation was. That we had last had good rains in November 2008, that water consumption was too high and that the local dam levels were dropping. The newsletter had lots of data and graphs in it. Probably a little overwhelming for the average resident. But one graph was pretty clear.

Water availability and consumption (Source: Eden Municipality)

 

All you need to understand about this graph is three things:

  1. The dam level was dropping steadily and rapidly
  2. Water consumption had – with the water restrictions already in place – dropped slightly, but not significantly enough
  3. Our town was going to run out of fresh water by the middle of April 2010, if we didn’t get significant rain and/or change our water usage habits before then

Below are two photos of what the dam looked like at around the 19% level. (Image source: Eden Municipality)

Desperate measures were required. Even more severe water restrictions were imposed – NO watering of gardens, NO water use for cleaning surfaces (roofs, paving) or things (cars, windows). Each household was allowed a certain number of kiloliters of water per month – if you went above that you were penalized per kiloliter, and if you disregarded the water restrictions you were heavily fined. Billboards were set up around town with the latest dam level situation. This not only kept residents informed, but also warned visitors not to waste water. Various water saving tips were published in the local papers. Competitions were held for the best water saving/water storage ideas. “Water inspectors” (don’t know their actual title) made the rounds of the town to make sure everybody was behaving. A “Report Water Crime” hot-line was established, where you could basically rat on anyone you saw wasting water!

With the small amount of rain which fell after December 2009; the residents making a concerted effort to save water; some residents installing fresh water tanks or drilling boreholes; and water being pumped into the dam from a still flowing river close by, the town limped along through 2010. At its lowest the dam level was around 16%.

Days after I wrote my post about the drought here, it started to rain. Good soaking rains. In the last two months it has not stopped raining. Thankfully, not the flash floods we have experience in previous dry years, but a couple of good rain days a week.

The result is that the local dam has been filling up steadily. In about mid-December it was “95.7% and rising”. During December we had more good rains, and although there’s been no official update on the dam level, by 25 December 2010 locals were saying that the dam was full.

Very good news and a wonderful Christmas gift for the town. Also an excellent way to start the new year!

[Click on image below to enlarge]

Garden Route Dam levels: Top row - early December 2010; Bottom row - Dam at 100% (Image source: Eden Municipality)

 

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Categories: Nature/Environment, Random

Author:lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)

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3 Comments on “An excellent start to 2011”

  1. January 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Thank God you all have gotten rain! I bet your garden suffered during the drought. Those first two photos are scary.

    I’m wondering how the dry weather affected the poor, people without access to water from the damn. How wide-spread was the drought?

    May the rest of your new year be equally damp!

    • January 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

      Yes, we are all very thankful to have gotten rain at last. The garden did suffer, but is bouncing back (stay tuned for a future post on that! 🙂 )

      The drought affected the Southern and Eastern Cape the worst as far as I know. The Eastern Cape is still not getting very much rain. I’m not sure if this rain means that the drought is finally broken or not. We still have to get through the rest of the hot summer here. But we’re definitely in a much better position than we were a year ago.

      This drought has obviously affected everyone. The people I feel most sad for are the farmers. Crop and fruit farmers couldn’t harvest a proper crop, dairy farmers didn’t have food for their cows etc. This would have impacted heavily on anyone associated with agriculture.

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