Much has been written about the ongoing drought and critical water shortages in the city of Cape Town. Residents are bracing themselves for Day Zero – the moment at which most of the city’s domestic taps will run dry.
But there’s also a great deal to worry about beyond the city’s limits and deeper into the surrounding farmlands of the Western Cape. Agriculture is an important part of the province’s socioeconomic fabric. The sector contributes 2% to South Africa’s national GDP, more than a fifth of which comes from the Western Cape.
The province’s major commodities are horticulture – fruit, wine and vegetables. It also produces livestock, meat and dairy; and field crops like wheat, barley and canola. All need water – and lots of it.
The allocation of water for irrigation varies depending on the catchment area in question. For example, a third of the water in the Western Cape Water Supply System – which also serves the city of Cape Town – goes to irrigation. But in an area south east of Cape Town known as the Breede Gouritz catchment area over 75% goes to irrigation.