24 March 2017
Farmers fear a third of their harvest could be badly affected if there’s no rain by end-March
The falling dam levels in the Western Cape have caused panic among farmers in the Theewaterskloof Dam region.
They fear that a third of their harvest could be badly affected if it does not rain by the end of March.
The region produces deciduous fruit, including apples, pears, plums and peaches. Only about half of the harvest has been completed and 2018’s harvest is at risk because little, if any, post-harvest water is available.
Theewaterskloof Dam is one of the largest reservoirs for drinking water in Cape Town. The dam’s water supply serves for municipal and industrial use, and irrigation. But dam levels have fallen and only about 100 days of usable water is left. This has resulted in farmers who rely on the Theewaterskloof Dam being restricted in how much water they get from it.
Dam levels are lower than 25% and, according to Agri Western Cape, if rainfall is below average again this coming winter, this will have disastrous consequences for the agricultural sector in the region.
Producers in the Theewaterskloof’s catchment and service area say the government should urgently allocate funds and put strategies in place to channel additional water to the area because so much water is distributed to the peninsula and metropole. This could be done without enlarging the dam, said Agri Western Cape CEO Carl Opperman. He said producers should be allowed to create storage capacity.
Producers in the region are also concerned about what the government’s priority will be in terms of agriculture versus public interest if water levels do not achieve the 85% target.
“The government should consider to what point urban growth outweighs the sustainability of critical agricultural regions,” Opperman said.
Cape Chamber president Janine Myburgh said the approach to water had to change just as the approach to electricity changed after load shedding.
“We believe the city council has done little to promote recycled water use and to supply it to industrial areas. We also need to come to terms with the fact that we are dealing with a long-term problem and we need to invest in solutions for the future. One of them is the promotion of rain water storage and tanks. Think of the acres of roof space on industrial buildings.”
The City of Cape Town will spend R315m over the next three years on emergency water schemes, including small-scale desalination facilities.
Cosatu spokesman Sizwe Pamla said the government needed to come up with rain and grey-water harvesting mechanisms and better recycling systems.