City of Cape Town poised to ease water restrictions further

2018-10-30 06:14
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The City of Cape Town believes dam levels are high enough for water restrictions to be relaxed even further – possibly to level 4 or even level 3.

But the City cannot take steps to ease restrictions until the national Department of Water and Sanitation decides how much bulk water supply Cape Town will be allocated for the next hydrological year.

In the Western Cape's winter rainfall region the hydrological year begins on November 1.

READ: Cape Town's increased water consumption is not sustainable, experts warn

City of Cape Town Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said on Monday he believed the dam levels were sufficiently high now to reduce water restrictions.

The City had already eased restrictions from the strict level 6 to level 5 on October 1.

"We are ready to move on this, but obviously it has to be properly coordinated with national government, so I can't say what level the restrictions will be until we know what national government decides. It could be level 4 or possibly level 3, but I can't say at this stage."

Dams three quarters full

The Department of Water and Sanitation usually meets all role players in early November, after the end of the winter rainfall season, when it informs the different sectors how much bulk water they can consume in the coming year.

Once the department has made this known, municipalities have to translate this into specific water restrictions.

Last year, after three years of drought when dam levels were very low, national government said all cities and towns in the Western Cape water supply system had to cut their consumption by 45%, while agriculture had to cut by 60%.

Now the department will look at the situation again, taking into account that dams are around three quarters full, and decide if these cuts in consumption can be eased and if so, by how much.

Neilson said he believed the cuts by the national department could be reduced from 45% to between 40% and 20%.

"Our current reductions that national department set are a 45% reduction from normal use. They could adjust this to 40% or 20% – that is the band we expect it to be in, but we will have to wait until they decide."

593 million litres a day

Asked if the City knew when the meeting would take place, Neilson said officials had not been informed yet.

"We in the City don't see the complete lifting of water restrictions at this stage. Our dam levels are back to about what they were in 2015, which was the first year of the three-year drought," Neilson said.

Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said he would know later this week when the meeting would take place.

Meanwhile, Cape Town's water consumption rocketed to 593 million litres a day last week - 93 million litres over the target.

This is the highest level it has been since the start of the strict water restrictions earlier this year.

Between February and the end of September, when level 6 water restrictions with a daily target of 450 million litres a day were in place, consumption was mainly between 500 and 530 million litres a day.

Increase in consumption not unexpected

From October, when the restrictions were eased from level 6 to level 5, the daily consumption target was set at 500 million litres a day. 

Consumers were allowed to move from a restriction of 50l to 70l a person a day.

Consumption quickly rose once the level 5 restrictions came into effect in October, and is now just less than 600 million litres a day.

ALSO READ: Capetonians can use more water - and pay less

But Neilson said if Capetonians could hover around the 600 million litres a day level, there would still be enough water to see residents through the summer to the next winter rainfall season.

Although he says last week's consumption was the highest it has been since February, Neilson said an increase in water consumption was not unexpected as Cape Town moved into summer.

"Obviously we're concerned that consumption is going up, but the question is, how high will it go?

"If we can stay around 600 (million litres) we are okay. I believe the dam levels are adequate for that."

Total dam levels had dropped slightly from a peak of 76% in mid-October to 74.8% on Monday.

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Read more on:    city of cape town  |  ian neilson  |  cape town  |  water  |  drought  |  water crisis

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