Gamtoos Valley in crises as Day Zero looms

The taps will run dry in Hankey and Patensie in less than two months time with the Kouga Dam at an all time low.

Yesterday (25/01/2018) the dam was a mere 8.1 % of capacity.

Day Zero will arrive in the Gamtoos Valley before the Western Cape runs out of water, putting jobs and food security at risk in the fertile valley.

The Kouga Municipality is preparing for Day Zero and will be trucking in water, while installing JoJo tanks at all Municipal buildings, including offices and libraries.

The Kouga Dam, constructed in the 1960’s, supplies water to hundreds of farmers, schools and residents in the surrounding towns of Hankey, Loerie and Patensie – settlements that once rested comfortably amid their striking fields of bright green citrus trees.

The communities depend on the multi-million-rand agricultural industry now under threat.

The water crisis in the Gamtoos Valley intensified about six months ago. Last July, Kouga dam levels were recorded at 18.51 percent and the Gamtoos Irrigation Board announced that farmers would have their annual water allocation cut 60 percent this year.

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The local farmers scaled down planting and reduced their water consumption.

The chairperson of the Gamtoos Agricultural Association, Petrus Du Preez, says that about eight million cartons of citrus fruits are exported by the area’s farmers during the harvesting season which runs from April to August. What kind of crops can be expected when water is so scarce?

“At this stage, we are positive and hopeful,” said Du Preez, 68, who is a citrus farmer of 45 years.

“We haven’t started putting workers out of jobs and we will for as long as possible keep workers in employment.

It’s not only us the farmers that the drought is affecting, it’s the community in townships who derive an income and it affects schools. There is no other economy here other than agriculture,” said Du Preez.

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