Drought-stricken farmers predict that low dam capacity will have a negative effect on farm production in the Gamtoos River Valley.
Kouga Dam is only at 7.7 % capacity, which means that farmers will now be forced to operate on 20 % of what would be their full irrigation quota for the new year starting in July.
“This is set to have a significant impact on fruit and vegetable production in the valley as farmers will not be planting ‘cash crops’ and will be forced to leave older, less productive citrus orchards to die off,” Gamtoos Irrigation Board (GIB) chairperson Tertius Meyer said.
“The little water they have will be dedicated to the preservation of younger, premium orchards.”
Meyer’s comments follow an annual meeting between officials from the national and provincial departments of water and sanitation, Nelson Mandela Bay municipality and GIB, which manages the dam.
GIB financial and human resources manager Rienette Colesky said that the department had done its best to balance the needs of farmers with creating a sustainable supply to surrounding towns and cities.
Meyer said that the greater part of Kouga Dam’s water supply went to sustaining agriculture in the valley, with the remainder forming a critical part of Nelson Mandela Bay’s water supply.
He added that while there had been mixed reactions from local farmers, many of them had expected even more drastic measures to be introduced.
The last time the dam was at full capacity was in December 2015.