Okay, fellow Capetonians, it’s time to get serious. If you haven’t been making efforts to save water over the past few months, it’s now critical that you do.
As a result of the severe drought and a repeated failure to reach the intended savings target of 800 million litres of collective water use per day, the City of Cape Town on Thursday announced that water restrictions will be put up another notch from Level 3 (which has been in place since October 2016) to Level 3b. The new, more stringent restrictions will officially kick in on Wednesday, 1 February and include an increase in spot fines to R5 000 per violation.
With water still flowing freely from our taps, the severe shortage the city is facing may not seem like a reality. However, the cold facts are rather chilling indeed: as of 23 January 2017, the average consumption was 80 million litres above target and dam levels had dropped to 40,4%. In the meantime, the South African Weather Service predicted a reduced chance of above normal rainfall countrywide between January and April 2017 and a dam level recovery rate of beyond three years. Which, in short, means we have a very long road ahead of us.
For perspective on just how dire the current dam level situation is, check out this video by Mille Foto of the Theewaterskloof Dam from 17 January:
So, what exactly do Level 3b water restrictions mean for citizens? Here’s a quick comparison courtesy of the City.
We took to the streets to find out if Capetonians were aware of the new restrictions, how they’ve been saving water and how they plan on doing the same over the next few months. This is what they had to say:
Nasreen and Rushana
Do you know about the new level 3b water restrictions? Not specifically, but I know there is a water restriction.
What have you been doing about the restrictions and the drought? Instead of having showers we would have a bath, but in smaller portions, and we have water in the fridge for ice water, cold water, so if we use the kettle we will use that water (Nasreen). With the washing for instance with the washing machine, I use it once a week instead of every day like I used to, then taking that same water and actually using it on the garden to save water (Rushana).
Do you know about the water restrictions or just that there are some? I know about the water restrictions. We switched off our irrigation system that usually runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so we are only using the grey water system part of it at the moment. Sometimes I open the tap for the cats to drink water from the tap, and I try and take notice a bit better to turn the tap closed again, they like to drink water from the tap. I also double check that the grey water system is functioning properly, because in the one shower the water doesn’t run properly into the grey water system, and it just runs down the stairs in front of our house instead of into the system.
In what ways have you noticed the drought? We live in Scarborough, in the deep south peninsula, and usually there’s a river running from the mountain and then forming a lagoon going into the ocean, and at the moment that river is dry, there’s no water coming through. I go for hikes in the mountain behind our house and there’s a dam there that is very empty at the moment. I can see that there’s very little water left in the dam.
What do you know about the new 3b water restrictions, or do you know about the water restrictions? Not really, but I’m still wanting to find out exactly what is happening with the drought.
What are you doing to save water? At home we switch off the tap, because it drips, so we switch it off by the main switch to avoid the dripping until we get the proper tap. We are getting a limit of 350 litres of water a day, and if you exceed that, it cuts until the next day. That’s what we are doing in the township at the moment. It’s a bit challenging, you see, because it’s not enough. The litres that they give us are not enough. If my neighbour does the washing, and I do washing, then we run out. So I wish they could give us a little bit more, like another 200 litres and then everyone would be able to [use it]. There are quite a few people in the yard, so we collect about 50 litres per house, but if I do washing then I run out, for dishes, and washing, body-wise.
What do you know about the current water restrictions, or do you just know that there are some? I’m not aware of the current water restrictions, because I use water every day and I’m not sure whether I’m wasting water, or using too much. I have a big family.
Has the drought been affecting your day to day life or not really? Not really.
Have you taken measures to try and save water? I have tried to do that at home, yes. If I look at my water bill (laughs). I try to wash in less time, use less water.
Are you aware of the new restrictions? I am just aware that there are some.
What have you been doing to save water? Well, I suppose I don’t let the tap run while I’m brushing my teeth, and taking shorter showers, and using the bath water to water the garden with.
Have you noticed the effects in your daily life? I’ve noticed that the grass is very dry, and there’s just a general feeling of being dry.
Illustration: Quasiem Gamiet