Karoo Update | Western Cape Government


Karoo Update

23 January 2019

22 January 2019


Statement by Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell.


The Provincial Department of Local Government is not currently aware of a pressing water emergency requiring immediate bottled water in the towns of Beaufort West and Laingsburg. Information from our specialists on the ground is that the towns currently have a sufficient supply of piped water.  The reclamation plant is working in Beaufort West and there is water in the reservoirs in both towns. Accordingly there is no emergency at present as far as we are concerned. 


We must emphasize that this does not mean there is no water challenges in these towns. The drought remains ongoing and long-term by nature. It also requires an ongoing concerted effort by all stakeholders to ensure communities do not run out of drinking water.


We appreciate the assistance of all partners and stakeholders and continue to urge continued cooperation and consultation. As a province it is our role to coordinate the relief efforts and we continue to do so. If towns have their own arrangements with NGOs and other partners, then that is up to them but we would simply continue to request that we are informed timeously to ensure better coordination of the ongoing relief efforts.


In addition, it is important that the water resources in the towns be managed adequately and continuously. We suggest that communities in the Karoo region reduce their consumption as far as possible and we would recommend that communities lower consumption to 50 litres per day and that the local councils consider applying stricter water restrictions. That may help ensure the reservoir levels get managed more efficiently and shortages occur less frequently.


We also urge communities to report water leaks and other breaks and technical challenges to their local councils. More than 40% of the water in Beaufort West is unaccounted for, an unacceptable level during a drought.


In conclusion:


This remains the worst drought in recent memory, an unprecedented event. The department has several ongoing interventions in place across the entire region including several experts on the ground monitoring the situation continuously. The department will also be sending another delegation to the towns of Beaufort West and Oudtshoorn this week to further determine the needs on the ground.


Some background


The Karoo region is suffering from a crippling drought and has not relied on surface water (dams etc) for a number of years.  Beaufort-West has relied on underground water for the past few years and uses reservoirs and reclamation plant for water. The reservoirs get replenished with boreholes. Currently around 27 boreholes are supplying the town with water on an ongoing basis. This continues at present.


Please note that these reservoirs (and the story is the same across the Karoo) relying on groundwater requires careful water management from the towns in question to ensure they are not emptied too quickly. The reservoirs get replenished by boreholes as mentioned, but this is time consuming and it is important therefore that demand not outstrip the supply. If that is the case then the reservoirs will not fill up and shortages will occur. At certain times of the day IF the reservoirs in Beaufort West are too empty then some areas may require water (including bottled or tanker water). There are measures in place to assist those high lying areas during those periods.


It MUST be stressed that bottled water is ONLY intended for short term shortages and meant to be used only in case of emergency. It is ONE of the ways the province ensures communities have water to drink at all times, but it is only needed in case of emergency or when there is a shortage of some kind expected in an area.


Nevertheless, the continued efforts of partners and stakeholders in tackling this longstanding drought is welcome and has always been welcomed by the provincial government.



Media Enquiries: 

James-Brent Styan

Spokesperson for the Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell

Mobile:                   084 583 1670

Telephone:            021 483 2820

E-mail:                    James-Brent.Styan@westerncape.gov.za