REPORT 29 January 2017

The Western Cape had a welcome spell of rain on Friday morning early, with some areas measuring 25mm and others in the Northern parts less. This is the first rain since New Year, and definitely not enough to make a measurable difference to the Cape Peninsula’s storage dams. As of this coming Tuesday, the City of Cape Town will place a ban on all watering of gardens for longer than an hour, and then only on Tuesday and Saturdays, before 9am or after 6pm. No potable water may be used to wash cars, and of course, the use of hosepipes is already prohibited.

Countrywide, the news is not very good this week either. Most provinces have dams at more or less the levels as they were last week, but Eastern Cape, KZN, and Western Cape all have lower levels than last year.

In KwaZulu Natal, Keith ZS5WFD advises us that the Albert Falls Dam’s water level has fallen to 26.1% of full as of last week. So, although large parts of the Midlands have had regular rainy spells, and some of their dams are filling up, the Department of Water and Sanitation has taken a decision to impose restrictions to the greater Umgeni River system, since domestic, industrial and commercial consumers have been unable to achieve a 15% reduction in usage, and farming and irrigation use not reduced by 50%. Restrictions were reduced during the holiday season because of the influx of visitors over Christmas. A blanket reduction of 15% is thus now in place, as of 2 weeks ago. The areas of EThekweni directly or indirectly supplied by a chain of reservoirs all stemming from the Mount Moriah reservoir are thus experiencing water cuts between 9pm and 4am, seven days a week. This is a very serious situation, and we hope that all parts of the summer rainfall area in KZN will get enough rain to refill all these systems before winter.

Wherever you live in the country, please be very considerate of the parlous state of our water supplies, and waste nothing!

HAMNET members are reminded again, of their need to update their membership details on the portal on the HAMNET website, < >. Click on the portal tab at the top right, enter your call sign and start the process of getting Chad ZS6OPS to send you a temporary password you can use to change or update your details, before saving the info to the portal. If you choose not to do this update, you will be lost to HAMNET, because the hardcopy database previously held by ZS1TR has been phased out.

Interesting news off the Sun is the arrival of the first sunspot that belongs to Cycle 25. When the new cycle starts the sunspots demonstrate opposite polarity to the sunspots of the previous cycle. Thus it is that the first reversed polarity sunspot group was spotted in the Southern Hemisphere of the Sun last week, to the West (or right) of the midline, and busy disappearing off the edge of the Sun. Before you get all excited and rush off to test the bands, please realise that cycle 24 doesn’t stop suddenly, and cycle 25 start dramatically. There is a considerable overlap, and it may be years before cycle 25 is anything to be proud of. However, we desperately need a bit of optimism these days – the bands are that poor. Near Vertical Incidence propagation charts this week suggest that you will not manage intermediate distance communications on anything but the 80metre  band. The Solar Flux yesterday was 80, but the planetary A index was 20 for the previous 24 hours, the K index at that moment 2, and the geomagnetic field unstable, because of a solar wind stream passing by. If we were further from the equator, we might see Auroras by night.

The World Health Organisation has issued its annual pre-flu season encouragement to people to take flu vaccines before winter. They say:

“The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine every year, before influenza season begins, although getting vaccinated at any time during the influenza season can still help prevent flu infections.

Getting the flu shot is especially important for those most at risk: pregnant women, children younger than 5 years, people older than 65 years, people with chronic medical conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, heart and lung diseases and diabetes, and people with increased risk of exposure to influenza, which includes health care workers.

Influenza viruses evolve constantly. Twice a year WHO makes recommendations to update the vaccine compositions in an effort to match the most common virus types circulating in humans at that time.” End quote.

And while we’re encouraging people to do things, may I please encourage you, being members of the SARL,  quickly to seize the bull by the horns and nominate one of the retiring SARL Councillors or someone else in your area to a post on the Council of the SARL, before Tuesday the 31st January. HAMNET can make more of a difference to the lives of the people of South Africa and our fellow radio amateurs, if we have Councillors who are kindly disposed towards HAMNET.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.