09 December 2004

Drought expected to persist

Johannesburg - Water should be used cautiously as rainfall currently being experienced in parts of the country had not broken the drought, the water affairs and forestry department warned on Thursday.

The poor rainfall patterns were expected to continue into the new year, said department director-general Barbara Schreiner.

"... citizens are asked to continue to be sparing in their use of water during the holiday season," she said.

Over the last three years the water levels in the country's dams had dropped faster than they had during the droughts of the 1980s and the 1990s, which were among the worst experienced in South Africa.

The rapid decrease in water levels was caused by a combination of high temperatures, low rainfall and higher consumption.

"We advise farmers, particularly in the central part of the country, to be cautious as the rainfall patterns are least likely to improve," Schreiner said.

She warned that although Gauteng had thus far escaped water restrictions it was still a "distinct possibility".

The department would monitor the situation.

The SA Weather Services warned last week that poor rainfall would continue over the holiday period and into early next year because of the weak El Nino system that had hit the country.

She said history showed there was a tendency for droughts to last anywhere between three and seven years


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