Water levels running dangerously low

While Cape Town residents were relieved to see some rain this week – the mayor says we need to plan as if there won’t be enough in the future.

Last week, the City of Cape Town announced its water resilience strategy at a press conference at the Cape Town Civic Centre. This was shortly after full council approved the implementation of Level 4 water restrictions due to the drought.

The City of Cape Town also announced its plan, should the taps run dry.

The Level 4 water restrictions came into play on Thursday June 1 and there is expected to be an increase in water tariffs at the beginning of next month.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said Cape Town had not received its normal rainfall or the past three years. “We’ll be planning for the new normal and that will mean we are always planning for a drought. It is about each and every one of us using our own water budget every day.”

Ms De Lille added that the City was engaging with the top 100 water users, which included some hotels. “There is a lot of good co-operation among all the sectors in society to work together.

“When we get into 4b, it will be only water for drinking, cooking and for washing. If worst comes to the worst, what the City will do is truck in water, but the best is still for people to save it while we have it.”

She also said that the City had employed 75 extra staff so that they could respond more quickly to water-related enquiries because the number of complaints had doubled as people became more aware of water usage.

“In our billing system that is going out this month, we are showing people how to test for leaks on their properties,” she pointed out.

Ms De Lille said council was already aware of the various small scale augmentation schemes which were currently being put in place to increase non-surface supply options.These included drawing water from the Table Mountain Group aquifer and the Cape Flats aquifer and small-scale desalination at Koeberg, among other things.

Mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg echoed the mayor’s commments that the new normal was based on scarcity. “It requires adaptation around how we utilise water, how our city is designed and built and Level 4 water restrict-
ions was one step in transitioning into that new normal.”

She said they had also requested upfront approval for Level 4b for further restrictions if necessary, to be able to act quickly even when Council is in recess.

“We are going to have to depend on a combined and continued water saving effort from every single resident,” she said. “We have to overcome the challenges before us, as a collective.”

The City’s chief resilience officer Craig Kesson, who was appointed in March this year, said the City was planning for drought and water scarcity in the future. “We have decided to consider and balance risk differently. We still have enough water in the system but what we are trying to prepare for is sustained water scarcity.”

He said that due to climate change, you could not tell if there would be rainfall patterns that would accommodate the city’s needs.

The City of Cape Town also stressed that tap water was still safe to drink despite some of the rumours going around. The Cape Chamber of Commerce also appealed to businesses to save water.

“We have all been guilty of taking water for granted and that has to stop right now,” said chamber president Janine Myburgh. “We can look back and see some of the things we should have done, but that does not solve our immediate problems. I appeal to all businesses that use a lot of water to do their own recycling and reuse water in toilets for example. It may require some re-plumbing but these emergency measures can become permanent water-savers for years to come.”