Dam levels likely to drop further as summer sets in: Gamtoos Irrigation Board

NOVEMBER 3, 2016

Residents asked to be more water wise amid lingering drought 

With the Nelson Mandela Bay region’s largest supply dam levels dropping rapidly as warmer weather sets in, the Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) is asking residents and farmers to be increasingly vigilant when it comes to water usage.

The Kouga Dam, which is managed by GIB, is currently at 63.1% capacity – a level which is likely to drop rapidly as warmer weather sets in over the festive season, the organisation has warned.

GIB financial and human resources director Rienette Colesky said that, since its establishment in 1991, the organisation had been responsible for supplying water to 250 farms with a combined surface area of 7 400 hectares. It also serves the Kouga Municipality (Patensie and Hankey) and Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

The latter is entitled to 28% of the dam’s water and introduced water restrictions in September in an effort to attain the required 15% reduction in consumption gazetted by the Minister of Water and Sanitation.

“Because the water usage from the dam has a direct impact on the economic activities in the Gamtoos Valley, it is vital to find the right balance between consumers’ needs and sustainable food security, development and conservation,” said Colesky.

In modern agriculture, she said, responsible water management was essential.

“The Gamtoos Valley is known as the pantry of the Eastern Cape. With agri-tourism and farming activities in the valley ranging from citrus and vegetables to dairy and livestock, water is important to everyone and the conservation thereof a priority. The board will fulfill its responsibility in this regard to the letter.”

Given that the canal system is the main artery between the Kouga Dam and the consumer, she said it was constantly monitored for water losses and maintained in peak condition.

According to Colesky, GIB has become increasingly involved in the Department of Environmental Affairs’ natural resource management programmes since 1999. These include conservation projects such as Working for Water, Working for Land, and Working for Forestry.

“Our track record in successfully facilitating these projects and the commitment of the implementing teams has, since 2000, led to a considerable annual increase in the GIB budget from the Department.”

Colesky said the 44 projects in which the GIB was involved were aimed at restoring the balance in nature, creating jobs and alleviating poverty, as well as stimulating the local economy.

According to a survey conducted by GIB a few years ago, 10 000 employment opportunities are created in the Gamtoos Valley when farmers relying on irrigation receive their full allocated water quota.

As water restrictions are introduced, job losses ensue.

“With every 10% reduction in the water quota, a thousand job opportunities are lost,” said GIB chief executive Pierre Joubert.

Joubert explained that although his board did not have a say in the water quotas for consumers, recommendations had been made to the Minister of Water and Sanitation, who would make the final decision.

Image: WATER WISE: GIB financial and human resources director Rienette Colesky. (Photo: Phillip Henn)