Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Water crisis looms as South Africa cuts water supplies

Botswana is headed for crippling water shortages in the near future, as South African authorities have resolved to cut completely water supplies to Botswana. South Africa has been supplying Botswana with water sourced from Molatedi dam, but recently resolved to stop such supplies as water levels at the dam have dropped drastically.

According to South African media, authorities have resolved to cease water supplies to Botswana from Molatedi dam, which is located in nearby Zeerust, as water levels are extremely low. Molatedi dam has been supplying water to Gaborone for years. The agreement between South Africa and Botswana, dating back to 1988, stipulated that water supplies to Botswana would be cut if the dam level dropped to 26 percent. It has emerged that South African authorities have been empathizing with Botswana over the years as they did not cease water supplies even when dam levels had dropped to below 26 percent as per the 1988 agreement; instead choosing to ration supplies. However, the situation has now reached crisis levels as water levels at Molatedi dam have dropped to less than nine percent, leaving South African authorities with no option but to completely cut water supplies to Botswana.

The two countries had initially agreed that 22 million litres of water would be pumped from Molatedi dam to Botswana every day provided water levels were at 26 percent and above. The agreement also stipulated that South Africa would cut supplies if water levels fall below 26 percent. While there is no record of official communication of the intended water supplies, the matter is expected to be raised at an annual meeting between the two countries scheduled for this month.

Matida Mmipi, Communications Manager at Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) confirmed the existence of the 1998 agreement, but said the Corporation has not received any communication from South Africa regarding the intended water cut.

“According to the agreement that we have with South Africa, we get full allocation of the agreed amounts of water if the water level at Molatedi dam is above 26 percent; and half allocation at levels below 26 percent. But then again, anything can happen if the water levels continue to drop drastically,” she said.

She added that Botswana and South Africa have two annual review meetings in May and October where such arising matters are discussed.

“We will be going for our second annual review meeting this month where we hope the South Africans will bring the matter to the table. It will be discussed by both parties and we will map a way forward,” said Mmipi.

As the water situation in Botswana worsens, WUC has increased water rationing days in greater Gaborone from three to four days a week.

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Digital edition of The Telegraph, October 28, 2020.