Cape Town drought

Day Zero is called off for now, but restrictions retained

By Leila Dougan 28 June 2018

Lightning strikes above the World Heritage Site Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, South Africa, 28 March 2018. A rare electrical storm occurred with rain predicted in the following days in the drought ravaged Cape Province. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

The panic is over for now as winter rains bring relief to Cape Town – but the high cost of water and strict restrictions remain in place.

From Daily Maverick archives, see a special report on the threat of Day Zero here: The Cape of Storms to Come.

Dam levels have been rising “consistently” and “significantly”, Ian Neilson, Deputy Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, said at a media briefing on Thursday, 28 June 2018. Over the past few weeks, the drought-stricken city has been receiving a healthy amount of winter rain and Day Zero has been cancelled for this year and 2019.

According to the city, dam levels are sitting at just over 43%, with two more months of winter rainfall expected. In comparison, at the end of winter last year dam levels were at just 38%. Despite the good rain, the city remains on level 6B water restrictions and consumers are encouraged to keep their usage down as the city continues to aim for a total usage of 450-million litres of water per day. Presently, consumption remains above 500-million litres per day.

Alderman Ian Neilson, Executive deputy Mayor of the City of Cape Town addresses the media at the Civic Centre on the status of the water crisis. 28 June 2018. Photo: Leila Dougan

Despite the healthy rainfall, consumers’ pockets will still be hit and they can expect to see a tariff increase from 1 July. Previously consumers were simply charged for the water they used. From 1 July however, Neilson says the city has introduced a “fixed proportion”, a fixed charge each month in addition to the consumptive charge which goes towards the maintenance of the water distribution system.

The fixed charge varies depending on the size of the household’s water connection.

There is a chance that tariffs will be reduced in the coming months, but this can only occur if the National Department of Water and Sanitation agrees to “relax restrictions”, which would then give the city permission to adjust the level 6B restrictions currently being implemented.

In addition to a promising winter rainfall, two desalination plants are also in operation. The Strandfontein desalination plant contributes 7-million litres per day and the plant at the V&A Waterfront provides 2-million litres per day. Although the cost of desalination is significantly higher, Neilson insists that education around reduction of consumption must be partnered with the diversification of the city’s water supply systems in order to address “future risk”.

Neilson thanked residents and businesses for saving water during a “difficult” time and stressed that everyone must keep their consumption down.

Residents can find out the status of their water-saving efforts on the city’s water map, which is updated monthly. DM

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