City of Cape Town declares water crisis

The water level of the Theewaterskloof dam near Villiersdorp is alarmingly low as a result of the scorching heat and drought conditions experienced during summer in the Western Cape.

Dam levels were at at 21.2% of potential storage levels, which is 0.8% down from the previous week, as at Monday May 15. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, dam levels were effectively at 11.2%.

The latest consumption has jumped up again to 718 million litres, which is 118 million litres over the consumption target of 600 million litres a day. The City of Cape Town is warning to all water users in Cape Town to cut all non-essential use of water immediately.

The City’s mayoral committee has recommended level 4 water restrictions be implemented from Thursday June 1, but it is asking residents to observe that level of restriction with immediate effect, which means that municipal water may only be used indoors, for drinking, washing and cooking. All outside and non-essential uses are banned.

“We are reaching a critical point in this drought crisis. Although we continue to work non-stop to force consumption down, overall use remains catastrophically high.

“This is not a request. We have seen huge saving-efforts, but the unseasonably hot autumn is exacerbating the situation and we must all do more,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, Xanthea Limberg.

“Rain or shine, we are now at a point where all consumers must use below 100 litres per day.”

Dredging operations have started at the Voëlvlei Dam to prepare for low-level extraction of water. The City is engaging with the lead authority, the National Department of Water and Sanitation, as a matter of urgency to request dredging operations at Theewaterskloof Dam too.

The City continues with its pressure reduction programmes across the metro which forcibly reduces supply at a given time. Other emergency interventions are under way, and if required, the City will start to implement a lifeline supply of water across the metro.

“In a severe drought such as what we are dealing with, the only real immediate intervention is to cut usage.

“Over this coming week, we must bring consumption down with 100 million litres of water per day. The City also warns businesses to start implementing contingency and alternative water measures in their own operations,” said Councillor Limberg.

Speaking at the Western Cape water security indaba last week, in Goudini, Worcester, Premier Helen Zille encouraged the different spheres of government, businesses and other stakeholders to work together to find innovative solutions in addressing the water crisis – similar to how the 2008 energy crisis had been managed.

“This water crisis is an opportunity for South Africa to emerge as the fastest growing water economy in the world”, said Ms Zille.

“Our innovation however, must be coupled with properly maintaining our current bulk infrastructure, repairing it where necessary and investing in new infrastructure for greater capacity”.

Ms Zille emphasised the need to be consider innovative options around regulations and policies governing the use of water and sanitation for general household or business activities, such as dual piping systems that can use non-potable water for toilet flushing.

Given that water requirements will exceed the current supply by 2019, she noted the need to create extra capacity in existing dams, by for example, extending the Voëlvlei and Clanwilliam dam walls.

“There is no doubt, that we are in a race against time, but with the right policies and implementation, we will emerge with the necessary solutions and prevent a possible disaster going forward,” said Ms Zille.

On Monday, Ms Zille announced she had declared the Western Cape a disaster area in response to the crisis, initiating proejct Avoiding Day Zero, which will focus on demand management, winter conservation, and groundwater management, including drilling boreholes at hospitals and some scohols, and abstracting from the Table Mountain Group Aquifer, among other measures.

Residents can contact the City via email at water@capetown.gov.za for queries or to report contraventions of the water restrictions – evidence should be provided to assist the City with its enforcement efforts – or they can send an SMS to 31373.

For more information, residents should please visit the water restrictions page on the City’s website: www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater

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