Despite floods in northern parts of South Africa, growers to the south are dealing with an unprecedented crisis. One of the Eastern Cape’s largest dams, Kouga which supplies irrigation water to the fertile Gamtoos valley, looks set to run dry for the first time ever.
The dam is just over 6% full, and the lowest release level of the dam is about 3%. This situation has put the citrus harvest at risk for many growers who do not have access to alternative sources of water. The situation is already dire for cash crop and dairy growers.
Chief Executive Officer of the Gamtoos Irrigation Board, Rienette Colesky, says the six-year drought is taking its toll. “The level of 6.55% has never been so low, growers are really going through a bad time. We have already closed some of their taps. The water allocation is from 1 July to 30 June, so they have a few months left. We need rain in the next 2-3 months to augment the water supply in the Kouga Dam. Not only for this year but also for the next water year.”
This situation endangers the citrus harvest for many growers who might not be able to water their crops further. Some growers have made contingency plans, with some trying boreholes, but the water is mostly not suitable for agriculture. Others use tankers to bring water to their dams, which is not sustainable. Expensive netting helps to prevent wind damage and evaporation.
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