City of Cape Town calls for relaxation with water restrictions when the dams rise

Rain in the weekend that caused flooding in some parts of Cape Town and snowfall along the Kaap vouwbergen pushed the level of the city's storage dams to 62% on Monday.

This is an increase of 1.9% in a week.

Due to the increase in dam levels, the City of Cape Town asked the National Ministry of Water and Sanitation to reduce its water restrictions from 45% to 40% for the city and from 60% to 50% for agriculture.

SPECIAL REPORT: Water crisis

The city made the proposal at a meeting with the national department and other water users, agriculture and municipalities on Friday.

The national department said it would answer by the end of the month.

The national department decides on the amount of water that cities, agriculture and industry can use and, in periods of drought, reduces the percentage. Because of the three-year drought of the Western Cape, the national department told agriculture to reduce consumption by 60% and the city by 45%.

Drop of water consumption

It is then up to municipalities, irrigation boards and other authorities to convert the bulk water supplies into detailed water restrictions.

READ: Dam levels in Cape Town reach a milestone that has not been seen for two years

The water consumption of Capetonians, which has steadily increased over the past three weeks, has dropped from 527 million liters a day last week to 513 million liters a day on Monday.

The rain station in the Jonkershoek, part of the catchment area of ​​the storage dams, had received 95 mm rain on Saturday evening, which was about 20% of the monthly average in August.

Some of the smaller dams are full or almost full, but of the three large dams, only the Berg River Dam is nearly full with 93% of its storage capacity.

Of the other two large dams, the Voelvlei is 66.3% full and the largest, Theewaterskloof, is 45.6%.

Cape Town's water supply is much better than last year, when dams were 34% and about the same as at the moment in 2016, when the level was just under 60%.

No resilience for another dry year

As the snow melts in the mountains that form the basin for Cape Town, dam levels will continue to rise slowly.

Nicky Allsopp, head of the fynbos knot in the South African environmental observation network, said that August was the last of the most significant rainfall months in the winter, with September averaging about two-thirds of the average August rainfall.

"So it is worrying that at this stage we still do not have the average amount of rain that we normally get in August, and what we've had has not contributed to a good month." There were good rains early in the season, but the speed with which filling dams is delayed, "Allsopp said.

This meant that consumers had to remain economical with water.

"We will survive the summer – with the exception of everyone who decides to take 20 minutes every day in the shower – but what we do not have is resilience in the water system to see through when we get a dry year again."

The dams in most of the rest of the Western Cape are looking good, with an average level for the province of 55% of the storage capacity – far above the 16% average around the end of April.

The drought areas in the province are the catchment areas of the Karoo and Gouritz river, where the average dam height is only 18% of the storage capacity.

According to the city of Cape Town, the cumulative rainfall at their rain stations for August to the present is:

  • Newlands 172.7 mm (long term average: 243.6 mm);
  • Wynberg 140.2 mm (192.9 mm);
  • Steenbras 85.3 mm (123.2 mm);
  • Table mountain 163.6 mm (213.5 mm);
  • The water table gap 66.9 mm (76.7 mm) and
  • Wemmershoek 117.7mm (154mm).

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