Cape Town dams filling up, but drought not broken

2018-06-25 21:28
The Theewaterskloof Dam, one of the six largest dams that supply water to Cape Town. (File, Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

The Theewaterskloof Dam, one of the six largest dams that supply water to Cape Town. (File, Conrad Bornman, Netwerk24)

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The City of Cape Town drilled its first test borehole into the Cape Flats aquifer on Thursday, hoping that the earth's natural underground reservoirs would provide an extra 80 million litres of water per day as dams dry up in a prolonged drought. Watch. WATCH

The recent winter rains pushed the overall level of the City of Cape Town's supply dams up to 42.7% full on Monday, higher than it was at this time in 2017 or 2016.

This time last week the level was 38.1%.

And despite the recent rains and the dams filling up, Capetonians are still keeping water consumption down, with a collective consumption of 527 million litres a day over the past week.

However, the City has warned that this amount is still higher than the 450 million litres a day required by the national Department of Water and Sanitation, a target Cape Town residents have yet to attain if the water supply is to be sufficient to keep the taps on through next summer.

This week in 2017 Cape Town's dams were 24.3% full; in 2016 they were 35.7%; in 2015 they were 52.8% and in 2014 they were 94.2% full.

Cape Town's Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson told delegates at the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) 2018 conference in the City on Sunday that residents needed to accept that the days of plentiful water supply in Cape Town might be over.

Western Cape to become hotter, drier

This was echoed by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille who told delegates on Monday that while the City had had good rains this winter so far, it might not be the case next winter. Therefore residents had to keep saving water.

The climate models predict that the western half of the Western Cape will become hotter and drier as a result of climate change.

The average level of dams across the Western Cape rose to 36.3% on Monday, an overall increase of 4.5% from last week. This week in 2017 the total level of the province's dams was 22.8%.

READ: Fears of a dry future for Cape Town as water conference kicks off

Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC of local government, environmental affairs and development planning, urged the public not to become complacent about water use.

"The drought is not over and the dams are still quite low, despite the very welcome relief and continued increases. We must continue to adhere to water restrictions and to reduce water demand.

"The lower water usage patterns we've been seeing over the past year must be the new normal. Permanent behaviour change that is geared towards sustainable use of our limited resources must become the new norm," Bredell said.

Fluctuating consumption 

Since the introduction of level 6B water restrictions, which calls on Capetonians to use 450 million litres a day, consumption has varied, but never reached that target.

According to the City of Cape Town's statistics, daily water consumption in the City has fluctuated. These are some of the readings of total daily consumption in the City this year: 

  • March 18: 565 million litres; 
  • April 8: 516 million litres;
  • April 15:  542 million litres;
  • May 7: 492 million litres;
  • May 14: 554 million litres;
  • May 28: 505 million litres;
  • June 4: 529 million litres; and
  • June 25: 527 million litres.

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