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Thu Sep 29 03:36:51 SAST 2016

Farmers drill deep for water

Graeme Hosken | 01 February, 2016 00:19
Farmers are increasingly hard pressed to irrigate parched fields and provide water for their cattle. File photo
Image by: JAMES OATWAY Sunday Times.

Devastating drought, dwindling water resources and government mismanagement of boreholes threaten South Africa's supplies of underground water.

Farmers in many regions, struggling to make ends meet, are drilling boreholes to extreme depths, some beyond 500m.

"We have farmers who are drilling beyond 500m on Gauteng's East Rand and West Rand. They hit water, but it lasts maybe two days. Then it dries up," says Mike Mlengena, president of the African Farmers' Association.

The average depth of boreholes is between 60m and 150m.

Farmers are increasingly hard pressed to irrigate parched fields and provide water for their cattle.

Matthys Dippenaar, a research project leader for the Water Research Commission, said: "It is not sustainable to turn to groundwater when surface water is threatened.

"It is dangerous to just start pumping out more groundwater, which depends on rain for replenishment.

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