Winter rains are life-blood of farmers

We’re back! It has been five months since our last Thrive EnviroQuiz
study article for schools and we hope you’ve been keeping warm and dry this winter.

With just one month to go before the 2016 EnviroQuiz, now is the time to get really focused.

Remember, the theme this year is water, and any of the 10 questions included with this article could be asked during the quiz on Friday September 9.

Have you felt the cold this winter? It certainly seems to have been colder than last year.

In June we had some fairly big low-pressure systems reaching Cape Town, bringing icy temperatures along with wind and rain. We call these storm systems cold fronts and they bring our much-needed annual rainfall.

It’s not easy to convince anyone to save water in winter in Cape Town. Many of us actually just want to get rid of it.

Our homes leak, making us mad because water always seems to find a way in, no matter how much waterproofing has been done. The roads flood, bringing traffic to a standstill, making us late for school and work, and we are forever trying to get the washing dry.

There’s also the dreaded cabin fever – seemingly far worse than usual colds and flu – which we get from spending too much time indoors. On a positive note, however, the months of rain help our gardens become
nice and green, and we pay less for water and sewerage.

Despite the winter blues we must not forget that good winter rains are vital for the Cape and the whole of South Africa. This is the water that fills local dams and carries Capetonians through the dry summer months.

It’s also the life-blood for farmers who produce staple crops. Did you know that the Western Cape contains 46% of South Africa’s wheat-producing land and two-thirds of the national production of barley? That means nearly half of the
country’s bread production, and a fair amount of our pasta, and beer, is reliant on Cape rains.

A steady spread of rainy days from May to August is what we rely on for stable water resources in Cape Town. Although, on average, June is still the wettest month and August the coldest, our weather patterns are shifting due to the effects of global warming and climate change.

Scientists say we can expect more intense cold fronts but that they will be further apart, resulting in longer dry spells with fewer rain days overall for Cape Town. In other words, we are facing a water crisis with serious consequences.

More powerful storms bring danger of flooding with damage to roads, buildings and our homes. Our poorer communities will be most affected. Fewer rain days means lower dam levels and limited fresh water available to everyone in the city.

Climate change is also having a big impact on our farmers who are struggling to produce worthwhile harvests and, consequently, either going out of business or choosing to invest in other crops such as olives or grapes. While alternative crops may be profitable for business, the supply of locally produced food reduces and the prices we pay go up.

As spring nears and we head into summer, it is clear that we must become a water-sensitive city.

Are you prepared to stand for election as a water champion and lead us? Read next week’s article and find out how to build your campaign.

1. Is Cape Town a summer or winter rainfall region?

2. Is a cold front formed by a high-pressure or low-pressure weather system?

3. Which of the following would you not expect with a large cold front: Rain, snow, strong wind or high temperatures?

4. Which of these words best describes the term “cabin fever”? Sickness, excitement or restlessness

5. Name two staple crops farmed in the Western Cape and threatened by low rainfall.

6. What common foods are produced from the crops mentioned above?

7. Which four months of the year does Cape Town rely on for good winter rains?

8. Which month, on average, receives the most rainfall in Cape Town?

9. True or false: Climate change will likely bring more intense storms in winter but overall fewer rain days in Cape Town.

10. True or false: Climate change will not affect the types of crops grown in the Western Cape or the supply of local food.


1. Winter
2. Low pressure
3. High temperatures
4. Restlessness
5. Wheat and barley
6. Wheat – bread or pasta, barley – beer
7. May, June, July and August
8. June
9. True
10. False