South Africa faces drought crisis 

The country runs dry

South Africa is going through its worst drought period since 1997, and provinces including the  North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Free State have been declared disaster areas.

The drought conditions, which are attributable to the El Nino weather phenomenon, have severely affected maize yields in the top crop producing provinces and have led to more grain imports.

There are concerns that declining yields could also lead to increases in the price of basic foods.

According to the Department of Water Affairs, local water sources such as dams have dropped, while rainfall patterns have also been affected.

Dams have dropped, while rainfall patterns have also been affected by the El Nino.

According to the Department of Water Affairs, the associated increases in temperature and reduction in ground water and soil moisture have begun to strain our water scarce country.

Departmental spokesperson Sputnik Ratau, says, "We are now faced with a new challenge that goes beyond climate change, beyond the normal lack of rain over the last two seasons. We are now faced with the next El Nino phenomenon which implies that there will be a further negative impact on our rainfall and therefore on our dam levels."

Declining water availability has had tremendous negative impacts on crop farming. 

The South African Weather Service has confirmed that this El Nino period is the worst since the 1950s and it is likely to lead to more dry spells as the summer progresses.  

The Department of Water Affairs says water levels have dropped to less than 10% in several dams in North West including the Molatedi Dam, which supplies both residents in South Africa and Botswana.


According to Meteorologist Paul Monare, the harsh weather conditions which have affected largely the KwaZulu-Natal province, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga are driven by the El Nino period and are expected to last throughout summer, however there will be few chances of rain.

Monare says El Nino's are caused by the sea surface temperatures that are higher or lower than normal, "The heating of the sea surface already took place when we were in winter. In the next three months to come it will have an extreme  impact on our weather."

Monare has confirmed that we cannot compare the current El Nino period with those experienced in the past, he says the one currently experienced is one of it's kind in terms of severity.

Desalination as a possible option

Speaking on AM Live, spokesperson of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Mlimandela Ndamase says government is going to start exploring the use of desalination of water in the coastal provinces.

He says climate change is taking place and the earth is warming, "Due to the water conditions in the country, the sea has claimed a lot of properties in the areas of Durban. As a result of the earth warming the water is rising above it's normal levels."

In an effort to relieve the country from its current drought situation, Minister of the Presidency Jeff Radebe announced that the government has established an Inter-ministerial task team to look into the drought crisis.

However a water expert from the Wetland Society of South Africa, Paul Fairall, says government needs to stop the massive sewage pollution of South Africa's rivers before it can introduce desalination.

Fairall says, "The very first thing the goverment must do, is to stop the massive sewage pollution of all our rivers in the country."

He says there is four billion litres of sewage going into the rivers throughout the country every 24 hours.

Fairall says we have become a reactive country rather than a proactive country, he says our government knew this problem was coming and there will be a huge lack of water but did nothing to solve it.