After months of closely monitoring dam levels and encouraging Capetonians to reduce their water usage, the City of Cape Town has announced that the ongoing drought has reached crisis point and that a serious recommendation has been made to implement Level 4 water restrictions from 1 June 2017.
During a talk at African Utility Week, City of Cape Town’s executive director of utilities, Gisela Kaiser said that despite water restrictions, they are essentially “waiting on a miracle”.
By last Friday the dam levels were already at 21, 6% down from 70% in 2015 at the start of water restrictions, which is hugely concerning in the light of meteorological indications showing that this winter will be no less dry than the previous two. The City has stated that over the next week consumption must be brought down by 100 million litres of water per day.
“Nothing can be taken for granted anymore,” Kaiser said, adding that the City is doing everything it can to serve almost 4 million people, “bearing in mind that Cape Town is a water scarce region and SA is the 31st driest country in the world”.
Kaiser said with the help of consumers and water restrictions they managed to cut down consumption and have so far saved up the equivalent of the Wemmershoek dam of about 59 million cubic metres which translates into about “23 600 swimming pools or approximately “295 million baths”, she boasted.
Water losses, said Kaiser, have been reduced from about 25% in 2009 to below 15% as of today. This she attributed to various interventions among which are the rate of pipe bursts that the city managed to reduce. “It is less than half from 64 bursts p/ 100 km back in 2010 to 31 bursts per 100/km - saving millions of litres of water.”
She also referred to desalination plants as being hailed as a possible alternative, but said there was no way it could be built to scale quickly enough to compensate for such a drought.
Daily limits and fines
In the meantime, Level 4 water restrictions will require much more concerted efforts from citizens to limit their water usage.
The intensified restrictions specifically make reference to water being used exclusively for drinking, cooking and essential washing with a limit of 100 litres or less per person per day.
To put this in perspective – the City is asking residents to flush their toilets only when absolutely necessary, as a single flush could use as much as 10 litres.
“We need all Capetonians to pay heed to our warning that we are in a serious predicament at the moment. We cannot watch four million water users in the city 24/7. Behind closed doors is also where many misuses and contraventions will occur, as we’ve seen from the previous restrictions. Every single drop that is wasted or saved, is making a difference to our dam levels,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.
The proposed fines to accompany Level 4 restrictions are subject to Council and the Chief Magistrate’s approval, but would most likely range between R1 000 and R5 000. The limit for a spot fine is R5 000, but the courts may determine a fine of up to R10 000 on conviction.
Please see the below table for a comparison between Level 3b and Level 4 water restrictions (click on image to enlarge):
What are you doing to save water?
Featured image: City of Cape Town/Facebook