A tale of two rivers

Actually just one river – the one next to which I live. But it’s looking like I’ve never seen it; like no one in living memory has seen it.

At the start of 2014 it looked like this:

River

This week?

River in drought

If a picture can paint a thousand words…

Forget about the lack of greenery. It’s mid-winter. That’s normal. But the water level. The photo is lacking proper scale, so let me help with that. If I were to stand with my feet touching the water, I wouldn’t be able to see over the bank of the river. That’s how far the water level has dropped.

Our region is gripped in the worst drought it’s had in a century. In our river’s catchment area we haven’t had sufficient rain since the flooding early in 2014. Our town’s main reservoir is dry (they organised a fishing day to help relocate as many fish as possible before they died from lack of water), and the last usable water from the river is almost gone. Every day that we open a tap and water comes out we say thank you, as some higher lying suburbs in town haven’t had water for weeks already. The situation is dire.

But the pictures do a better job at telling this story.

With at least three months left before we can expect any rain to fall (and that’s if the rainy season starts early), this winter is going to be a challenge for us all. If you believe in prayer, please pray for a town in South Africa called Kroonstad and the 200 000 people who live here and don’t have any water left.

14 thoughts on “A tale of two rivers

  1. Very sobering. Weather all over is changing, one of the side effects of global warming, and we’ll all eventually feel it. In my country they’re still “debating” whether it’s real or not, although the evidence is everywhere…

    1. Not sure global warming is at fault here. This is the worst drought since the 1930s, which means about 80 years ago we had a drought of similar severity, and that was long before the term, greenhouse effect was coined.

      The fact is most of SA’s rivers are not perennial, and before we dammed it up it was normal for the river to run completely dry outside of the rainy seasons. What makes it an issue now is that it’s affecting over 200 000 people directly, and that the situation could have been avoided with proper resource management:

      Our town’s main reservoir can hold enough water for almost 3 years, but it lies outside the river’s flow so needs to be pumped full. In 2014 when the river was in flood the pumps were broken, or possibly missing, or the electricity cables had been stolen…can’t remember; it’s newsworthy around here if the pumps are working, so we don’t take much notice any more if they’re not. Point is, we actually have the infrastructure to weather this kind of drought, but due to poor management the dam hasn’t been filled to capacity in years, and last time we had the water to fill it up, we let it flow away instead.

      (“we”, of course, referring to the powers that be, but as “we”, the people elected them into power we can’t lay the blame solely on them.)

  2. That’s not good – looks like feast or famine when it comes to water. I hope you get some rain soon in the catchment (but not enough to overflow things). There IS a method I know of that is foolproof. All that’s required is for me to visit Kroonstad with some laundry. It will immediately rain. This actually happened to me in the middle of the Queensland desert back in 1988 – I was on the gemfields, at Emerald, where it hadn’t rained for 20 years. I did some laundry and, even as I hung it out, the rain began to fall…

    1. I might just be buying you a plane ticket in that case. Already tried washing my car (at a car wash in a neighbouring town that has more groundwater than they can use), and that did absolutely nothing 😀

      (In ’88 I wasn’t living here yet (and was in the first grade in school) but that year there was a flood where the water came up to the level of the light switches in the first floor apartments (second floor from ground level) in our building, so maybe it just rained a lot in general that year…)

    1. To say the contrast is jarring is an understatement. As I was standing on the bridge taking the photos on Saturday a man walked past. He told me he’s been living in town for the past 40 years and have never seen it like this.

      Fact is, we’re a water scarce country, and very few of our rivers are truly perennial, but the water for the 2 kilometer stretch where the river runs through town is the last water in the river. That’s a terrifying thought.

  3. Oh wow! The comparison of the first two pics was shocking to me. Hopefully that rain comes soon.

    Btw, I just noticed you gave us a hammer there as our cursor. That’s awesome.

    1. Glad you noticed the hammer 🙂

      I’ve been experimenting a bit with CSS and it’s amazing what you’re able to do with it, even within the code limitations on WordPress.com.

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