GEORGE NEWS - The Southern Cape Region is prone to natural disasters and faced with droughts and severe water supply challenges.
George received R90-million in drought relief through two grants from Western Cape Provincial Disaster Management and the municipality's own spend was R10,6 million in 2009/2010.
This was spent on an ultrafiltration plant for the re-use of wastewater.
The rapid urbanisation, specifically in the George area, brings about immense water demands. The excellent rains - 148mm in two months - have just staved off a water crisis in the nick of time.
So said Eden District Municipality's chief of Disaster Management Gerhard Otto during a PowerPoint presentation given on Thursday 8 March at the Garden Route Investment Conference staged by Eden.
Most concerning is that there has been an average rainfall decline from 900mm per annum in 1900 to an average of 630mm per annum by 2009. Referring to a study, "The Outeniqua Coast Water Situation Strategy", initiated in 2005 and completed in March 2008, Otto said it also reveals that over the last 30 years the extremes in rainfall vary between 300 and 1200mm per annum.
The George Municipality's approach as reported in the George Herald on 8 March ("Reasons why George is upholding water restrictions") is therefore on target: "If it stops raining today or we have a below average rainfall, and Georgians keep using the same amount of water they are now, the city will be in crisis by the end of next summer."
According to George Municipality's technical department, George uses 31 megalitres per day.
The study shows that by 2004 the city had become a sprawling 7 488ha, from a mere 728 in 1957. Last year, George exceeded the 200 000 population mark.
The entire Eden District municipal area with its seven towns stands at a population of 600 000. Providing water to this massive influx of people is taxing. Otto said that climate change and its devastating effects (extremes in temperatures, drought and deforestation) have been brought to bear in the study.
It is clear that our region's water security remains a substantial challenge. Many towns in the district have limited bulk water storage capacity.
This is further exacerbated by alien invasive trees, which annually consume up to 5 billion litres of water across Eden.
The ability of wetlands - which normally form natural barriers - to regulate and filter water have also been inhibited by damage to the wetlands.
The hydrological studies dating back to 2008 show a cycle pattern of droughts. These cycles are characterised by panic, rain, apathy, drought, awareness and concern; interestingly, water consumption fell drastically in 2009 due to a high level of drought awareness shown by the public.
The consumption remained low for many years but then gradually increased, due to the influx of new families into the district and George.
Alternative sources of future water supply for George were proposed as part of the Outeniqua Coastal Study with the following targets: re-use of treated wastewater (50%); groundwater (20%); desalination (20%) and bringing unaccounted-for water losses down to less than 20%.
In Eden's February 2018 report George, which had received over 50mm of rain last December and 96mm in January 2018, was shown to have enough stored water to fall in the "sustainable for 12 months category".
Towns which predominantly depend on river and / or groundwater abstraction systems for water supply have a low risk of experiencing insufficient flow volumes during the prevailing drought conditions and fall in the "green" category on Eden's risk chart.
Water security measures
In George, water security measures already undertaken include the re-use of waste water; flow reducing devices; the implementation of the Malgas pumping scheme; and block burning of river catchments, all of which came to R121,6-million, of which R10,6-million was spent by the George Municipality.
Lastly, the raising of the Garden Route dam spillway is to be finalised and a contractor is to be appointed this year.
Knysna spent R40-million on drilling and equipment for new boreholes and water re-use. Sedgefield falls within the "high risk" category, which means that their "water demand and availability is under threat and requires intervention in resource development".
Although Plettenberg Bay does not fall in the "red code" category, a graph shows that the Keurbooms river last year recorded the lowest flow since 2009.
Read previous articles:
- Raising of dam wall and spillway update
- Raising of Garden Route Dam spillway
- Update on Garden Route Dam capacity increase
- Have your say: Dam's spillway amendment
- Garden Route Dam spillway to be raised
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