The National Treasury has allocated R300 million to the North West Provincial Disaster Management Centre for drought relief. The money will mainly be used to upgrade water supply infrastructure.

This comes as several towns in the North West experience water cuts daily due to shortages.

Being without water for several hours is taking its toll on residents. Some farmers started to irrigate their crops in September, and boreholes ran dry.

Chadwick Lobakeng, who is North West Head for the Department of Water and Sanitation outlines challenges encountered with the water shortages .

“We have nine boreholes that we would normally supply from… during the peak of that shortage, there were only three boreholes that were functional. So you can only imagine that would lead to a shortage of supply to Mahikeng. We have currently restored two boreholes.”

Old asbestos pipes that crack and burst, lead to massive water losses, and have to be replaced. Although plans are underway to replace and repair the aging infrastructure, the project is expected to take several months.

Lobakeng explains further: “We have municipalities where the losses are as high as 60% in the system. We are talking physical losses. Now imagine a municipality is having losses of water, but it is losing 60% of that water into the ground. So if we can manage to plug those holes in terms of water management and conservation programme that the municipality can implement, we will be in a position to put more water into the system without having to develop new resources around that very same area.”

Although work has begun, time is running out, as the festive season and holidays approach. Lobakeng says they are facing a deadline to use the funds made available by National Treasury.

“National Treasury transferred these funds quite late as well. There is an attempt by the department to engage the National Treasury, to say to them: this is the time we have left to implement this, to see whether we can’t get an extension in terms of implementing of those funds, because these funds should have been utilised by the end of March next financial year.”

As another heatwave hits the province this week, dam levels are declining even more.

Setumo Dam, which supplies Mahikeng, is currently only 59% full, compared to last year’s 90%. People are advised to use water sparingly.