Water Restrictions here to stay until 2017

This report from Lindsay Dentlinger for IOL

Cape Town – The City Council has said that water restrictions in the city could remain in place well into next year as other municipalities in the Western Cape moved to join it and Stellenbosch in limiting supplies.

The Drakenstein municipality announced it was restricting its water supply to residents, and the West Coast municipality is expected to follow suit, as town councils feel the pressure of keeping the taps running after a dry winter.

Cape Town extracts 99.5 percent of its water from voelvlei dam, Cape Town water, water restrictions, water tariffs, water savingsix dams – Wemmershoek, Steenbras Lower, Steenbras Upper, Voëlvlei, Theewaterskloof and Berg River – which are only around 46 percent full.

“If we have the same rainfall in the winter to come, we will have a capacity problem,” said Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayco member for utilities. He said the council had no choice but to increase tariffs, especially for high-end users. “For the lower-use consumer,
the increase will be very nominal. When we increase our tariff, it has to be punitive to get our 10 percent saving,” he said.

Barry Wood, of the council’s bulk water branch, told the municipal portfolio committee on utility services on Monday it was too soon to say what impact restrictions over the last month had had on supply. Continuing water restrictions would depend on rainfall levels and drought conditions this year. “There’s lots of uncertainty about the climate. It is better to be proactive,” Wood said.

Sonnenberg said restrictions would remain in place until dam levels had “sufficiently recovered”. “The concern is that this is the second lowest storage capacity we’ve had,” said Sonnenberg.

No water restrictions have currently been imposed on agriculture which uses about 30 percent of communal water supply. The council is selling its treated effluent and expanding its pipeline to Macassar to make the treated water available for irrigation. “We are trying all means to use potable water for human concerns only,’’ said Sonnenberg.

The greenery along the integrated rapid transit routes and golf courses were all using effluent for irrigation, Sonnenberg said.

The water level of the Steenbras dam is currently the third Steenbras dam, water saving, water tariffs, Cape Town waterlowest in its 100 years of recorded rainfall history, as is the Newlands reservoir in its 109 years. Wemmershoek is at its seventh lowest level in the 62 years on record. The Stellenbosch municipality uses approximately 2 percent of the water resources that it shares with Cape Town, while Drakenstein extracts around 7 percent.

After the winter of 2014, the dams were around 75 percent full. This year, they are expected to be at a minimum of only around 30 percent, which is similar to the levels in 2004.

Wood told the committee that the council was trying to reduce its extraction from the Voëlvlei Dam near Gouda and Wemmershoek Dam between Franschhoek and Paarl, and instead increase the production at its treatment plants at Blackheath and Faure for the water taken from the Palmiet system.

André Fourie of the Freedom Front Plus said the council needed to plan for increase in population growth. “We can’t become too complacent. This situation just shows you that we can run into a crisis.”

Wood said the best way to manage the water situation in times of drought was through restrictions rather than the augmentation of existing supply.