The Buffeljags is running dry

“This is the first time in 30 years the river has been this low,” reports Bertrim Oliver, who lives in Suurbraak, a small village that straddles the Buffelags Rivers on the way to or from Barrydale in the Western Cape.

Where I live, in line with the confluence of the Caledon and Buffelags, neither river seems to flow anymore, and the Buffeljags is fast drying up.

Where the Caledon River meets the Buffeljags in Suurbraak

“Never seen it this bad,” comments Matthew Mentz, “but we have had worse droughts, which makes me think water tables are disappearing.”

The Municipality of Swellendam administers Suurbraak and supplies farmers and all of us who live ‘oor die rivier’ (across the river from the village) with irrigation water from the Buffeljags, which they pump to a storage dam up the hill.

When the level falls below the pump feed we on this side of the river will be in trouble as the irrigation dam water is our only source – unless we have rainwater tanks of sufficient capacity.

Buffeljags in line with the pump station in Suurbraak

Organic farmers, Mark and Dori September, are therefore at risk.

Dori and I spoke with the Suurbraak Municipal Manager, Desmond Marais, about the situation. Marais confirmed that bulk water is available from Swellendam (purchasable via the Municipal cash office).

Caledon River that runs close to the plot where I stay in Suurbraak

Update, Wednesday 2018-11-21

Two days later the heavens opened (see below), and it then poured throughout most of the night.

Rain collecting around the cob house

The next morning, what do we see:

The Buffeljags flowing strongly over the weir in Suurbraak

In view of the comment below by Carol Browne in response to Matt’s hypothesis about groundwater levels mentioned above, it will be interesting to monitor for how long the flow continues.

The featured image at the head of this post is of Dori and Mark’s and my goats surveying the new geography of the Buffeljags

This is a developing story.


2 thoughts on “The Buffeljags is running dry”

  1. I agree with Matthew’s view on the disappearance of the water table . The El Nino and global warming phenomena are largely responsible for the loss of water in South Africa. It makes a lot of sense to think that fewer rainfalls every year will ultimately result in less underground water and the drying up of rivers. The best one can do is to get as many rainwater tanks as one can afford, to catch the rain that falls on any structure with a roof. Even a chicken coop can have gutters fitted to channel rain into a water tank . A large barn should also provide sufficient roof coverage to fill many water tanks. A water pump can be fitted on a wheeled trolley for easy mobility to the separate locations where tanks were installed.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful observations and important suggestions. That is exactly what Mark and Dori have done, purchased a large rainwater tank to be delivered this coming week hopefully in time with the rains forecast. What also speaks to your and Matthew’s assessment regarding underground water is the suddenness with which this happened – as if to suggest it’s WYSIWYG, nothing pushing up from below.

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