Farmers in the Gamtoos River Valley are becoming increasingly concerned as the level of one of the Eastern Cape’s largest supply dams approaches record lows.
The Gamtoos Irrigation Board says the Kouga Dam looks set to run dry for the first time as its current level has dropped to below 7%.
Irrigation Board CEO Rienette Colesky has warned water users that it cannot supply water adequately below the 3% watermark.
The dam, which opened in 1969 and last overflowed in 2015, has never dropped below the 6.5% watermark reports www.algoafm.co.za
Known for its citrus, cash crop, and dairy farming, the Gamtoos River Valley is suffering under a years-long drought.
Colesky said the Nelson Mandela Bay and Kouga municipalities’ drawings from the dam were also curbed to just 30% and 70% of their full water allocations respectively, and that both were honouring these restrictions.
“The lowest release level of the dam is 3.1%,” said Colesky. “We will, however, not be able to sustainably supply water at that level.”
Cattle and citrus farmer in the valley, Tertius Meyer, said some farmers had already used up their water allocations for the 2020/21 water year, which ends in June, leading to their supply from the dam being discontinued.
“Some farmers are helping their neighbours with water and others are spending a fortune bringing in water in tankers just to keep their orchards alive,” said Meyer, who is also chairman of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board.
Weather Office spokesman Garth Sampson added that the region is headed “for one of the driest summers on record”.
Historically, he said, the highest incidence of rain over the dam’s catchment area occurred from March to October. However, forecast models were not clear on whether there would be decent rains in the coming months or not.