The Gamtoos Valley’s Kouga Dam is the fullest it has been in seven years and farmers gained a 15% increase in water allocation (albeit up from 20%). Rainfall was plentiful and during the first two months of the water year citrus farmers barely needed to irrigate.
In May 2017, left, the Kouga Dam's level was at 24%. On the right, mid-August 2023, it is almost 58% (photos: Marius Saayman)
Water levels made a swift ascent as the rain kept falling in the Langkloof, breaking through the 60% barrier this past weekend.
The level will probably start dipping as temperatures climb (early spring is hot – well over 30°C already) and farmers start irrigating more.
“The mood in the Valley has changed,” notes a citrus grower. “Everybody greets now, nobody’s angry now for no reason.”
He expects a good season and not only the upcoming season, he says, but for a couple of seasons thereafter. He will resume replanting of citrus orchards previously on ice because of the prolonged drought.
“For the next season, our volume could even double up from what it is now.”
The verdant Gamtoos Valley
However, there is a matter that the Gamtoos Irrigation Board wants to see settled. They have written to the Department of Water and Sanitation to appeal the 2023/2024 decision to shave 5% off the 40% limit for agricultural water users indicated by the department’s model and to settle on a lower quota.
The 35% allocation should be reviewed, Rienette Colesky, CEO of the irrigation board believes, in light of the current state of the dam.