The levels of the dams supplying water to Cape Town have been rising consistently and significantly over the past six weeks. This week, total dam storage capacity is at just over 43%, and we still have more than two months of expected winter rainfall ahead of us. Over the last few months, our collective water usage has been around 520 million litres per day.
This may be compared to the situation at the end of winter last year, when dam levels were at 38% and consumption was over 600 million litres a day.
Having analysed this new data, the City is in a position to state that not only have we managed to avoid Day Zero this year, but we will also safely get through summer in 2019. This is due to the amount of water already in the dams, our intense water demand management programmes, our unrelenting communication, awareness and the behavioural change it has effected over the past two years, as well as the continued support and sacrifice of Team Cape Town.
We have shown what we can achieve if we all pull together and work towards a common goal.
While the City hopes to reduce the current restrictions in the near future, and the tariffs associated with them, that decision is dependent on National Government relaxing restrictions on releases from the water supply system. If the National Department of Water and Sanitation agrees to relax restrictions, the City expects to be in a position to proceed with a stepped up reduction of water restrictions and the associated tariffs.
Until then, let’s keep up the good work and keep saving water for a little while longer. We have to ensure that we make a permanent change to our approach to water usage.
The City also explained what has changed since January 2018
At the beginning of the year, we were in the extended stages of a devastating, deepening and unprecedented drought. For three years in a row, our rainfall had been significantly lower than in previous years. The 2017 rainfall was the lowest in recorded history at only 40% of the long-term average. This resulted in a substantial decline in the levels of the six large dams that supply water to Cape Town, the surrounding municipalities and agriculture.
In January, projections of the rate at which the dam levels were falling indicated that we could reach a level where emergency measures would have to be implemented in April 2018. This became known as Day Zero. This projection was made despite the fact that the City had already halved its summer consumption rate, from 1 200 million litres per day to 600 million litres per day.
We did, however, have three things in our favour to ensure a rapid drought response: our pre-existing water demand management programme; the City’s highly skilled engineers and professional staff; and the residents of Cape Town.
These combined elements allowed us to reach the start of our winter rainfall season without running out of water. The reason we never reached that projection of Day Zero was due to the enormous effort and sacrifice of both urban and agricultural consumers to cut consumption levels even further throughout the summer.
Due to the water conservation efforts of our residents, and the ground-breaking interventions instituted by the City to reduce consumption, our dam levels bottomed out at 20% by the end of the summer. This was just 7% above the level at which we would have had to start restricting consumption to 25 litres per person per day.
Fortunately, the rains started early in our winter (May) and fell at rates closer to the average than in the previous years. It was only then that we could see that circumstances had changed.
In short, almost half-way through our winter, we are already in a much stronger position than we were at the end of winter last year.
Based on this information, and provided that adequate water restrictions are maintained, there will be no prospect of reaching Day Zero in 2019.
How did Cape Town do it?
We are now in a much better position, not only due to the encouraging rainfall we have seen so far, but also because of the incredible cooperation of our residents and due to the various technological and human interventions initiated by our municipality to drive down consumption.
In the meantime, we must continue saving water and encourage those visiting from other areas to do the same.
Please visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater for all water-related information.
Eloise Pretorius – Weekdays 9am – 12pm Anchor, Smile 90.4FM