The South African Department of Water and Sanitation has urged the provincial and local authorities in Gauteng, the country's smallest but most populous province, to start imposing water restrictions.

The call comes as the country is facing one of the worst droughts in 30 years, causing levels of the Vaal Dam to drop. Department Spokesman Sputnik Ratau said Thursday that the average water levels in dams nationally stood at 53 per cent compared with 73 per cent at the same time last year.

Ratau says Gauteng residents -- who include the populations of Johannesburg and Pretoria, the financial and administrative capitals of the country -- should prepare for harsh water restrictions as very little rainfall was expected the rest of this year.

"We realised that the Vaal River system, which is the biggest feeder of water into the system of Gauteng, is now in a critical stage and the Vaal Dam itself is at the level of 35 per cent of capacity," he added.

"That is why on the 12th of August there was a Government Gazette by the Acting Director-General of the Department, that Gauteng has got to look at the matter of water restrictions, just like they have in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Limpopo (provinces)."

Ratau said this year's drought caused by the El-Nino weather phenomenon had affected levels of many dams nationwide. According to a Water Affairs report, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Free State, North West and Northern Cape are the five worst affected provinces while Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Mpumalanga provinces have also been declared disaster areas.

Ratau said if the situation did not improve, Gauteng would soon follow suit.


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