Drought crisis reaches alarming levels

An aerial picture of Theewaterskloof dam taken earlier this month.

Dam levels in the Cape are effectively down to 9.7%.

The actual dam storage levels are at 19.7%, but with the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, the level is read as at 9.7%.

Despite being in the most critical stage of this drought crisis, consumption in the Cape remains at 666 million litres, which is far more than the consumption target of 600 million litres a day.

Residents are reminded to use water only for drinking, washing and cooking, with tougher restrictions due to 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, among others, has been recommended by the mayoral committee.

Notwithstanding restrictions, residents should work towards the consumption target of under 100 litres a person a day.

A five-minute shower can use between 40 litres and 70 litres, and flushing a toilet uses between six and 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.

One leaking toilet wastes between 2 600 and 13 000 litres a month, depending on the flow rate of the leak. A leaking tap wastes between 400 and 2 600 litres a month.

Residents can also check for 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 and medium-scale emergency supply schemes.

The City says it 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, the City says we have not yet reached this level and 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. This rigorous process means that water quality is closely monitored through a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards requirements.

For more information on how to save water or for updates on restrictions in place, residents should visit the water restrictions page on the City’s website: www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater

“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.

“Every single drop that is wasted or saved, is making a difference to our dam levels,” said Xanthea Limberg the City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy.

The proposed fines to accompany Level 4 restrictions are subject to council and the chief magistrate’s approval. The limit for a spot fine is
R5 000, but the courts may determine a fine of up to
R10 000 on conviction.

Residents may contact the City through email to water@capetown.gov.za for queries or to report contraventions of the water restrictions (evidence should be provided to assist the City’s enforcement efforts) or they can send an SMS to 31373.