After a severe and prolonged drought, Cape Town is expected is reach “Day Zero” – when the water supplies will be turned off – in mid-May.
After careful consultation growers from the Groenland Water User Association (GWUA), a private water network, decided to make the one-time donation. The water comes from private dams in the area.
According to GWUA CEO Johan Groenewald, Grabouw and Elgin producers have enough water for the current season.
“We are in a different catchment area than the City of Cape Town, and although our rainfall has been much lower than what we are used to, farmers in the area realised that we are currently in a more favourable position than the City of Cape Town. Thus, they decided to ‘pay-it forward’,” he said.
GWUA chairman, Stuart Maxwell explains: “Negotiations began late in October when a blanket 30% reduction of water used for agriculture by 60/70% was being mooted. A working group of growers in our valley sketched out how our valley was different.
“Not only were we a major employer in the area with tens of thousands of people reliant on us for their livelihoods and responsible for supplying food on South African tables and export revenue but also our growers had the foresight 40 years ago to build their own dams and water reservoirs.
“Importantly, our valley has also been blessed with more rain. When we demonstrated that our growers with just a 10 per cent cut in water usage could maintain output and jobs and would still be able to deliver 40 million cubic meters over a year into the city’s supply they accepted our proposal but said they needed 10 million cubic meters of water in February to which we agreed.”
The head of South Africa’s largest pome fruit exporter, Tru-Cape, said it was heartening to know that just as the company’s growers in Ceres contributed animal feed to assist the drought-stricken Karoo farmers, so too have their growers in the Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom and Villiersdorp valleys shared their resources with the City of Cape Town during this water crisis.
“Their voluntary water donation is largely from private apple and pear growers in the area and we hope this will assist in avoiding or significantly delaying Day Zero when City taps run dry,” managing director Roelf Pienaar said.
Ross Heyns, chairman of the Elgin, Grabouw, Vyeboom, Villiersdorp (EGVV) Agricultural Association, said the donation could put farmers in a difficult position at the end of the current season.
“We will be dependent on a good winter rainfall to replenish reserves for the next season,” he said.
In an effort to develop the deciduous fruit industry in the region, Elgin and Grabouw fruit growers have over several years built dams with private money.
The GWUA does not provide water to the Vyeboom and Villiersdorp area, because these farmers get water from Theewaterskloof Dam. The two water networks are not connected.