Mbombela — Smallscale sugarcane farmers in Mpumalanga’s Nkomazi area are singing a sweet tune following good rains over the festive season.
Dam levels have continued to rise, with most reaching levels of 100 percent or more, including the Driekoppies dam that feeds the sprawling Nkomazi area bordering Mozambique and Swaziland.
“The rain has been a huge blessing and a money saver,” said Sam Mashaba, a smallscale sugarcane farmer and chair of the Inhlangu East Farmers Association in Driekoppies.
Mashaba said the good rains have meant farmers do not need to pay huge electricity bills to pump water from local rivers to irrigate their crops.
“The good rains also mean we aren’t limited to the water allocations system which dictates the times we can irrigate our crops and the volume of water we are permitted to use,” said Mashaba.
On an annual basis, farmers pay a stipulated fee to the Department of Water Affairs on the numbers of hectares they irrigate.
Mashaba said that in Nkomazi, sugarcane is harvested all year round, making an adequate water supply essential.
However, he said the rains came with challenges. “The rain may be a blessing but the muddy ground makes it a challenge for farmers to manoeuvre when harvesting, so they have to wait for the ground to dry a bit before they can drive in with their trucks,” he explained.
Chief director at the department’s regional office in Mpumalanga, Fanyana Mntambo, said it was good that the province’s dams were full because it would ensure there was sufficient water when the rainy season ended in April.
While most dams in the province are 100 percent full or more, those that are not at full capacity include Rhenosterkop dam at 92.3 percent, Ohrigstad dam at 60.8 percent, Witbank dam at 95.2 percent and Middelburg dam at 95.2 percent.
Despite the rains, residents of White River have, however, been warned to use water sparingly.
Spokesperson for the Mbombela local municipality, Bessie Pienaar, explained that even though the three dams that supply the town were in a healthy state, the area’s water catchment was small, which meant the dams would not remain full for long.
The dams supplying the town include Klipkoppie dam, which is 99.8 percent full [now 100% full], Witklip, which is 100 percent full and Longmere, which is 86.8 percent full [now 100% full]
She said the town’s water supply was so tenuous, that residents had to apply to the council for permission to fill or top up their swimming pools.
Residents who fail to do so, or who are caught with water running out from their yards into the street, face prosecution.
The development that has occurred in the White River area has outstripped the area’s water supply capability. During good rainy seasons people forget about the dire water shortages and water restrictions of past winter seasons when even boreholes have dried up. The current good rainfall in the area provides an ideal opportunity for rainwater harvesting. Some people are connecting rainwater systems to two, three and more water tanks for water storage. One of our clients is building a massive underground water reservoir to ensure that his household has water in times of municipal water supply cuts and water safety issues (White River municipal water, like that of many other towns around South Africa, cannot always be considered safe to drink).
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