Jack Milner: Like all the sporting codes involved in the “green industry”, horseracing in the Western Cape faces massive challenges with regards to the current water shortages in the province.
The racing industry, which includes the breeding industry, training of horses, TAB workers and on-course personnel, employs in excess of 12,000 workers in the affected area and is doing everything in its power to ensure that water is being used sparingly and within all the legal constraints.
“The current situation is that we have two earth dams at Kenilworth Racecourse which are catchment dams, and those two are used exclusively to irrigate the track,” explained Dean Diedericks, course manager in the Western Cape.
“The irrigation dams did not fill up at all during the winter – in fact they are only half full – so we had to look for alternatives. We had four boreholes installed many years ago but right now, after testing the water, only three of those boreholes were worth drawing water from.
“We followed all the required due process and got approval from the city council. So now those three boreholes supplement the dams.
“Of course, we are cognisant of public perception. I have been approached by members of the public to ask why we don’t irrigate at night. Unfortunately it is not possible to get the whole track done in just eight hours at night.”
Diedericks explained that you also have breakdowns during the process as some sprinklers do not always work. “Unfortunately no irrigation system is 100% effective. Also, sprinklers do get affected by wind and there will be some the water sprayed outside the sprinklers’ area.
“We understand the situation. We do more hand watering than ever before.”
The racing industry has tried to be as conservative as possible and has opted for other ways deal with the water shortage. “We have also made use of wetting agents which has reduced water requirements by 50%. Other sporting codes, like golf courses, have the same problem and many of them are using recycled water.