Drought bites – SA Water Minister warns without rain soon, rationing starts

By Kevin Crowley

(Bloomberg) — South Africa may be forced to reduce the water supply in some areas as it battles its worst drought since 1992, according to Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Below average rainfall in the past few months has led to “worsening drought conditions” in the nation, where two of nine provinces have been declared disaster areas, she told reporters in Johannesburg on Sunday. As a result, the government may have to cut supply to consumers and farmers, Mokonyane said.

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“Water is a constitutional right in South Africa,” she said. “What we will do is reduce the supply. Where there is no water being provided, we will augment that with water tanks.”

Read also: Water shortages loom for SA: worst drought in two decades

The timing and size of cuts will depend on the rate of voluntary rationing by South Africans along with future rainfall. Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, imposed restrictions on using hoses and sprinklers on Oct. 28.

South Africa is in the fourth consecutive year of drier-than-average weather, with 2015 the most severe. Arid conditions are slashing food production and boosting the price of staples such as corn. Caused by El Nino, a global weather pattern that denies moisture to the sub-Saharan region, the dry weather probably will persist through the remainder of this year and into March, a period when the country normally gets most of its rain, according to the South African Weather Service.

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“Little relief is anticipated in the coming months,” she said.

The drought is straining water systems supplying about 18 percent of the country’s 53 million people, Mokonyane said. KwaZulu Natal is the worst affected province, she said.

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