PRETORIA, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has announced the lifting of water restrictions with immediate effect in Gauteng Province, South Africa’s smallest but most populour province which includes oth the national administrative and financial capitals, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Her announcement Monday came in the wake of a dramatic change in the water situation following torrential rains which flooded most parts of the country in the past 10 days. The Vaal Dam, one of the main water sources for Gauteng, is 97.8 per cent full and is expected to reach its capacity by Tuesday.

In the past week, officials of the Department of Water and Sanitation have been monitoring dam levels around the clock to control water flow.

Speaking at a media briefing held at Vaal Dam on Sunday, Mokonyane said the departmental officials released volumes of surplus water on Saturday at Bloemhof Dam in North West Province.

However, the Minister said the decision to relax the ban in Gauteng did not mean an automatic countrywide moratorium on water restrictions as some regions are still reeling from the effects of the debilitating drought that started in South Africa two years ago.

“For instance, stringent restrictions would remain in place in Western Cape (Province) which is experiencing the worst drought conditions in its history. The City of Cape Town has introduced Level 3B water restrictions to try to cope with the severe water shortages,” she added.

“However, the restrictions in the province may be reviewed later when winter rains begin to fall in the region. Water restrictions in other provinces would remain in place and would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis together with the affected municipalities and if need be, they too will be advised to lift the ban.”

The lifting of restrictions will bring relief to many water users, especially farmers, who have been at the receiving end of the stranglehold of the stringent restrictions because of insufficient water in the past 12 months.

The good rains have filled all the dams in North West, except Molatedi and Groot Marico dams, where rivers are swelling and are expected to fill the two dams soon.

Wet conditions continue in KwaZulu-Natal Province where most dam levels are also reported to be rising fast and some of them are expected to reach their capacity in a matter of days.

Mokonyane, however, warned that the rains did not mean an end to the country’s water woes and urged all South Africans to continue to use water wisely.

The Minister thanked the people of Gauteng for their efforts in helping the department save water by adhering to the restrictions and using water wisely and responsibly in the past four months.

“I trust that the lessons learnt on responsible water use will become a norm and a way of life for us all, and that we will adapt to the realities of being a water-scarce country,” she said.

Meanwhile, communities who live downstream of Bloemhof and Vaal dams have been warned to relocate, as they may be exposed to possible floods.

Mokonyane said looking at where the country comes from a few months ago, when the dams averaged a lowly 54.8 per cent in April 2016, 49.1 per cent in December and 60.5 per cent a week ago, a great deal had been achieved.

The department monitors 211 dams. Of these, 13 are below 10 per cent of capacity, 33 are at between 10 per cent and 40 per cent while 57 are above 100 per cent.