Critical drought warning for Cape Town: tougher restrictions imminent

Water Shortage Generic

Dam storage levels are now at 19,7%, which is 0,8% down from a week ago. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, dam levels are effectively at 9,7%. Disappointingly, consumption remains at 666 million litres, which is above the consumption target of 600 million litres. While dam levels are low, the City assures residents that water remains safe to drink. 

Cape Town is currently in the most critical stage of this drought crisis, yet consumption remains too high. Residents are reminded to use water only for drinking, washing and cooking. Tougher restrictions will be implemented this week. The exact restrictions that will be passed must still be deliberated by Council, however a blanket ban on all irrigation, filling of pools and washing of cars with drinking water has been recommended (among other things) by the Mayoral Committee.

Notwithstanding restrictions, residents should please work towards the consumption target of under 100 litres per person per day. A five-minute shower can use between 40 litres and 70 litres, and flushing a toilet uses 6 – 21 litres, depending on the size of the cistern. One shower and five flushes of an average-sized toilet will push a person over their daily allowance, and this is not even taking into account other necessities such as drinking, cooking, and washing of clothes and dishes. As such, the City recommends limiting time under the shower to two minutes and only flushing the toilet when absolutely necessary.

Should residents be able to meet this level, a two-person household will use 6 kl during a billing cycle and a four-person household will use 12 kl during a billing cycle, and so on.

Capetonians should also please check their property for plumbing leaks. One leaking toilet wastes between 2 600 and 13 000 litres per month, depending on the flow rate of the leak. A leaking tap wastes between 400 and 2 600 litres per month. Residents can also check for likely underground leaks by taking a meter reading, switching off all water in their home, and observing whether the meter continues to register consumption.

The City is continuing large-scale pressure reduction programmes across Cape Town to force down consumption and is implementing various small/medium-scale emergency supply schemes. Residents should be clear, however, that it is not possible to bring online schemes of sufficient scale that they could alleviate the current crisis. These accelerated projects, while taking some pressure off drinking water supplies, should be seen primarily as paving the way for accelerated implementation further down the line as we move into a period of heightened uncertainty around our climate. Saving as much water as possible remains key.

Those who contravene the water restrictions are held accountable.

The City has also noted recent hoaxes about water quality in Cape Town. While the last 10% of a dam’s volume is difficult to treat to acceptable standards, we have not yet reached this level. Water remains safe to drink. Water undergoes extensive filtration as well as chemical treatment before it is pressure-fed into the reticulation system. Water quality is controlled at the treatment plants by process controllers who perform tests on an hourly basis in the on-site labs in order to make the necessary adjustments.

In addition, the City fully supports and complies with strict water quality checks as prescribed by the National Government’s Department of Water and Sanitation. This rigorous process means that water quality is closely monitored via a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards (SANS 241:2015) requirements. To ensure the excellent quality of our water, the Scientific Services Laboratory tests over 5 700 samples of water each year. We draw water and perform tests from sampling points throughout the water system. In terms of these test results, water remains safe to drink.