South African Drought

Intensity and spatial extension of drought in South Africa at different time scales (Rouault and Yves Richard, 2003)
The standardised precipitation index (SPI) is an index that allows monitoring the intensity and spatial extension of droughts at different time scales (3, 6, 12 and 24 months). The SPI is linked to the probability occurrence of dry or wet events. The SPI allows monitoring operationally any location with a 30-year time series. It is also used here to do a retrospective analysis of the spatial extension and intensity of droughts in South Africa since 1921. According to this index, the 8 most severe droughts at the 6-month time scale for the summer rainfall region of South Africa happened in 1926, 1933, 1945, 1949, 1952, 1970, 1983 and 1992. There is considerable decadal variability and an 18 to 20 year cycle is only found in the number of dry districts. The total number of wet and dry districts per decade seems to have increased since the 1960s. Drought lasting 3 years is not uncommon for each of the 8 South African rainfall regions defined by the South African Weather Service. Combining the retrospective analysis with real time monitoring could be extremely beneficial in thedevelopment of response, mitigation strategies and awareness plans (Read more).
St Lucia 2001 to 2012: A Decade of Drought (Taylor, 2013)
In 2001 rainfall in the catchments of Lake St Lucia was above average, the rivers entering the lake were flowing strongly, the St Lucia mouth was open and salinity in the system was low. Water levels were high, boating was easy and angling was good. Two years prior to this the area had been awarded World Heritage Site status in recognition of its global status as a superlative natural area. Then the situation changed. Below average rainfall was recorded most years for the period 2001 to 2012, and there was little flow in the rivers. The St Lucia mouth closed and the authorities decided against dredging it open. This was a controversial management decision. The cumulative freshwater deficit manifested as lowered water levels and hypersalinity (Read more).
Development of drought response policy options for the cost effective provision of water supply to rural communities subject to recurring droughts (Hazelton, Pearson, Kariuki, 1994)
The objective of the project was to develop drought response policy options with regard to water supply to rural communities subject to recurring droughts. The aims in the development of the policy options were as follows: To identify the drought susceptible rural subsistence farming areas of South Africa (and the factors leading to their increased susceptibility); To investigate alternative water supply sources which may be more reliable during times of drought; To assess drought coping strategies and measures; To review policies used elsewhere; and To compile policy options relevant to South Africa  (Read more)
Management of a reservoir for drought (Stevens et al., 1998)
The Min-Der Reservoir in Taiwan is undersized for meeting the full demand from it, so it is necessary to manage the water in the reservoir to meet demands in the best possible way. The monthly inflow series was extended using a rainfall-runoff deterministic model. Probabilities of end storages, given different initial and operating conditions, were used to optimise the release for various conditions. The operating rule was derived using linear programming optimisation methods with an objective function derived from questionnaires which aimed to minimise the cost to the economy. The operating rule thus obtained indicated that the draft should be reduced when the reservoir level is low at the beginning of dry seasons. Water requirements should be curtailed for at least one or two seasons each year, with the irrigation sector being restricted more than industrial and domestic users. Simulations using both the newly developed operating rule and the old operating rule as suggested by the dam designers, revealed that the new operating rule results in much lower costs to the economy and fewer zerostorages. Alternative criteria for decision-making exist, i.e. frequency of running dry, maximum volume of water used, or minimum economic effect of restrictions (Read more).
Water and Regional Integration: The role of water as a driver of regional economic integration in Southern Africa (Muller, Chikozho, and Hollingworth, 2015)
This report considers whether and how different approaches to the development, management and use of water resources might contribute to regional integration in Southern Africa and concludes that water does not make an important direct contribution. Its political symbolism may have an important indirect impact and should not be under-estimated. However, ‘hydro-centric’ approaches, that prioritise the protection of water resources over support to the achievement of social and economic objectives may undermine even that benefit. How were these conclusions reached? The study addresses the prior, general, question of how the development, management and use of water resources contribute to promoting sustainable socio-economic development, which is usually cited as the primary goal of regional integration in Southern Africa. It also reflects on evolving concepts of regional integration and the relevance of new ideas about regionalism to the discussion. Since much of Southern Africa’s surface freshwater flows in rivers that are shared by a number of countries, it focuses on the specific challenges that these present and considers emerging forms of environmental regionalism and governance (Read more).
The occurrence and severity of droughts in South Africa (Zucchini and Adamson, 1984)
This report is part of a larger study on the occurence and severity of drought in South Africa. As various aspects of this study may be of interest to researchers and practitioners who are not specifically concerned with drought, it was decided to seperate the results of the research into three self-contained reports, this being the main one. Naturally this has led to some repetition but it is hoped that this disadvantage is outweighed by making the methods and results more accessible to a wider audience (Read more).
October 2015 Report on Drought Conditions Across the Country (2015)
Due to prolonged lower-than-normal rainfall since the year started, drought conditions are being experienced across the country. This has led to water shortages in a number of public water supply schemes/dams. But so far, drought disaster has been declared in only two of the nine provinces – KwaZulu Natal and Free State Provinces. Funding for specific drought mitigation measures have been received by only the KZN Provinces. This document presents a picture of how much the drought is affecting the country by looking at the trends in main drivers of drought. (Read more)
Drought management as an alternative to new water schemes – Theory (Stephenson, 1996)
In the urban areas of South Africa we have been accustomed to receiving all the water we require. Hitsorically the cost has beeen relatively low by international standards due largely to bulk supplies. The quality has been good and the reliabilty acceptable. As the cost of tapping additional sources increases (Stephenson, 1995) due to greater distances and pumping lifts and increasing costs of purifying, we need to re-examine our standards (Read more).
Managing Drought in South Africa
Draft speaker's notes for Minister Nomvula Mokonyane - Read more
National Agro-meteorological Committee (NAC) Advisory on the 2015/16 summer season: Statement from Climate Change and Disaster Management (Oct 2015)
This is a statement from Climate Change and Disaster Management of the DAFF on advisory guidelines for farming communities in light of the current drought. "It is emphasized that these advisories are broad guidelines and should be interpreted considering the local aspects of the region such as soil types, cultural preferences and farming systems. Depending on the particular region, the prioritization of the guidelines will differ. The basic strategy to follow would be to minimize and diversify risk, optimize soil water availability and to manage the renewable resources (rain water and grazing) to uphold sound farming objectives. Long-term mitigation strategies should be considered by implementing techniques to enhance in-field water harvesting by reducing run-off and improving infiltration. Reduced tillage methods are very important in this regard, as is basin tillage, to capture rainwater in the drier areas." (Read more)
Coping with drought: The experience of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) in the George Municipality (Lottering, Du Plessis, and Donaldson, 2015)
This study investigated the extent of Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) activities in the George Municipality in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, and its impact on water consumption. The WSUD approach aims to influence design and planning from the moment rainwater is captured in dams, to when it is treated, and reticulated to consumers, and extending to the point of wastewater re-use, as well as stormwater use. The study identified 8 WSUD sub-activities stemming from 4 main WSUD activities, implemented by the George Local Municipality. Water debtors’ data were sourced in order to measure the effect of 3 of the 8 WSUD sub-activities on water consumption in selected areas. The analysis confirmed that the three WSUD sub-activities had a short-term impact on reducing water consumption in the suburbs where they were implemented. It is recommended that the municipality focus on improved planning and implementation of a diverse range of WSUD activities and implementing information and monitoring systems to evaluate the impact of these measures. (Read more)
Technical Brief: Indigenous knowledge and water (WRC, 2015)
A completed Water Research Commission (WRC) study investigated the traditional coping strategies against drought conditions by farming communities in the Karoo. (Read more)
Simulating drought in Southern Africa using sea surface temperature variations (Mason, Lindesay, and Tyson, 1994)
Changes in atmospheric circulation that produce droughts over South Africa are briefly reviewed, as too are the links between regions of homogeneous sea surface temperature variation in the oceans around Southern Africa and their correlation with rainfall over South Africa. Thereafter sea surface temperature anomaly fields known to be linked to the occurrence of droughts are used to initialise the 4-level CSIRO general circulation climate model to simulate drought over South Africa. Model results are compared with previously developed hypotheses concerning ocean-atmosphere interactions in the region and are shown to be consistent with observations in many important respects. (Read more)
Structure and precursors of the 1992/93 drought in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa from NCEP reanalysis data (Dube and Jury, 2003)
As the demand for water increases in line with human population pressure and economic development activities, river ecosystems will continue to deteriorate unless they are managed in a sustainable way.  The main causes for this, particularly in their down-stream reaches, are related both to water quantity and water quality. The problem related to water quantity (e.g. the occurrence of extremely low flows) is governed by both natural events (drought) and human-induced factors (e.g. large upstream freshwater withdrawals).  Because it reduces the dilution capacity of the river, high levels of water withdrawal or loss from upstream river sections or tributaries can considerably affect the water quality of downstream river reaches (Read more).
AquaSmart Hotels (Wade et al., 2014)
The AquaSmart Hotels tool was developed to create awareness regarding water conservation within the hospitality industry by assisting members and owners of hotels, lodges, B&Bs etc., to determine where and how water is being used within their establishment and providing alternative options which could reduce their water consumption. The AquaSmart Hotels tool consists of two Microsoft Excel workbooks. The first workbook is the tool and the second workbook is a database where water consumption information for the hotel can be stored. This guide provides detailed instructions on how to use the tool and database as well as general information on water conservation within the hospitality industry. Read more
WRC Drought Factsheet 1: Background to current drought situation in South Africa (Nov 2015)
South Africa is a semi-arid to arid country with a highly variable climate with highly constrained freshwater resources. These limited water resources are affected by weather extremes imposed by climate variability and change. Drought, which is currently devastating parts of the country, is a recurrent characteristic feature of the country's highly variable climate and weather extremes. Read more
Severe drought in Southern Africa expected to drive large food assistance needs in 2016/17 (FEWS NET, 2016)
Famine Early Warning systems Network (FEWS NET) reports a food security alert for the Southern Africa region as a result of the drought. Read more
Status of drought of drought in South Africa, Minister Mokonyane
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Torrential rains have caused flash floods
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