Last week I got to walk on the floor bed of Theewaterskloof Dam, located on the Sonderend River near Villiersdorp, about 120km from Cape Town.
The earth is cracked and the water marks on the pillars which support the road bridge, are faded.
It was indeed a scenic route to the dam. As you climb Sir Lowry’s Pass you can see Strand beach in the distance, and then just before you hit the dam, several apple orchards.
This is in stark contrast to the dam itself – a receded waterline and dry, cracked earth.
This is the largest dam in the Western Cape and the seventh largest in South Africa – and an important water source for Cape Town.
Its current capacity is 10.8%, compared to 27.5% at the same time last year.
The average level for dams across the Western Cape for the week starting February 26, is 21.3%, compared with 31.6% for the same period last year.
When I accompanied about 60 senior citizens and Social Development MEC Albert Fritz to the dam last Thursday, the MEC recalled a primary school excursion, but the difference, he said, was that “die water het ons kom haal”, referring to expanse of water that once was.
Due to the extreme drought and heavily receding waterline, vineyards which were flooded in 1975, were now revealed.
I walked barefoot on land the government had expropriated to expand the dam, whose water is used largely for municipal, industrical and irrigation purposes.
The aim of last week’s visit was to raise awareness about the extent of the ongoing drought.
Thankfully, the farmlands have tapped into groundwater resources and farmers have reduced their usage.
Similarly Capetonians have brought down their consumption in an effort to avoid Day Zero – the day the water supply to taps in most areas will be turned off.
If we have no rainfall at all in the coming months, Day Zero could arrive as soon as July 15.
While this is later than the previous prediction of April, the City of Cape Town continues to encourage residents to save water to stretch supplies as far as possible, but also because the national Department of Water and Sanitation has imposed a 45% restriction on the City’s water use for the current hydrological year – which runs from November 1 last year to October 31 this year.
According to the City’s latest media release if restrictions are not adhered to there is a chance that the national department may impose even more stringent restrictions on Cape Town in November.
So, the drought is real and we need to save in every which way.