At the time of writing, we are experiencing welcome soft rains in George. Water restrictions have been implemented following lower-than-normal rains in 2022 which has resulted in the level of our Garden Route Dam dropping below 50% of its increased capacity.
The catchment area for our Dam is relatively small, dependent on the run-off from the Outeniqua Mountains. In 2020 and 2021, George’s annual rainfall was over 800mm and 1000mm respectively, compared to only 600mm up to November 2022. During normal average rainfall years, inflow to the Dam would therefore be sufficient for ten months when full.
Since December 2021, the daily usage of water has risen by 17-20% partly due to in-migration. With the aging of water infrastructure, it is also evident that there are more leakages and breakages throughout the water network. Over the past two years, the municipality has progressively allocated more financial and other resources to address pipe replacement and network management. We are adding more pressure release valves, meters, smarting metering devices and telemetry to the system to improve management of the system.
Over the past year, it has become noticeable that usage levels risen from 75% to 90% of the maximum treatment capacity, even exceeding 100% on some days, before allowing for losses through pipe bursts and regular maintenance needed at treatment plants. This has periodically placed enormous pressure on the water available in the reservoirs.
Readers will be aware that construction is currently underway on a 50% increase in treatment capacity, a R480 million project which is due for completion in 2025. In the meantime, we have begun to undertake refurbishment work on some of the treatment modules at the old water works to improve their efficiency. To cater for the increased usage of water, a temporary water treatment plant that can treat an extra 5 million litres of water (roughly 15% of daily usage) is being installed. This plant will be connected into the network by mid-December. In the past few weeks, in addition to the above projects, there have been unplanned interruptions in Eskom’s supply of electricity. This combination of interruptions caused our main reservoirs to be depleted to only having 2-3 hours’ water available at times. Even though communication alerts were sent out by the municipality they were largely ignored.
The water restrictions have accordingly been introduced to appeal to consumers to understand that our water resources are limited due to lower rainfall. Water is essential for the existence of earth’s inhabitants. Our appeal is therefore that each household or business should reduce usage by 15% to ensure that we can stretch our available water until we receive sufficient rain to replenish the water stored in the Dam.
Ald L van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George