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Cape Town sets proactive water savings target

6th December 2022

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The City of Cape Town has set a proactive water savings target, based on this year’s below average rainfall, until the next rainy season.

Despite no immediate cause for concern about water security in Cape Town, with the dam levels currently at about 73%, the city is calling on residents and businesses to use water wisely this summer and to fix leaks, to collectively keep use below 950-million litres a day.

“If we use more than this target this summer, followed by another below average rainfall next winter, the city may have to implement water restrictions by next summer,” says acting Water and Sanitation MMC Councillor Siseko Mbandezi.

“We believe this is the responsible step to take now – an early call for Cape Town to collectively work towards using less than a target amount of 950-million litres a day to reduce the risk of restrictions at a later stage.”

The wise use of water helps maintain the supply in instances of prolonged/heavy periods of loadshedding or when maintenance work is being done on bulk infrastructure.

The request followed a meeting among the City of Cape Town, other water users within the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), wherein the anticipated municipal and agricultural water use and the implications of the well-below average rainfall this past winter were discussed.

It was agreed that no water restrictions will be implemented at this stage; however, a voluntary reduction of 10% from all WCWSS users was called for.

The requirement for water restrictions from the WCWSS is usually assessed after the end of the winter rainfall season at the end of October.

“Last summer, water use exceeded 1 000-million litres per day a few times during heat waves, and this took us back to the kind of use last seen before the drought crisis of 2016 to 2018 period,” Mbandezi says.

“We are already seeing use starting to spike in recent weeks because of the warmer weather, rising well above the 900-million litres a day mark. We have journeyed together to save water before and we have no doubt that Cape Town will work together again to stay below the target.”

Water use and dam levels will be monitored closely, while the city’s Water and Sanitation Directorate will continue with its own efforts to reduce water waste by preventing or addressing burst pipes and leaks through its programmes such as leak detection, yearly pipe replacement and pressure management.

The city will also continue to implement its long-term New Water Programme that aims to bring 300-million litres of extra water a day online by 2030 through a variety of sources, including desalination, water reuse and groundwater through aquifers.

“Diversifying our water sources will reduce the city’s current dependence on rain-fed dams as our main source of water. Over the next three financial years, the city will be investing about R2.05-billion in new water sources, which is progressing well. The city has already invested R1.55-billion in this programme.”

Further, the City of Cape is contributing R50-million to a partnership coordinated by The Nature Conservancy that clears thirsty alien invasive plants so that more water reaches the dams in the WCWSS.

Currently, more than 55-billion litres of water, equating to about two months of water for Cape Town, is lost each year owing to invasive plants such as pine, gum, and wattle trees, which, if not dealt with, will double to 100-billion litres of water lost each year within the next 20 years.

Mbandezi points out that wise outdoor water use, fixing leaks and complying with permanent regulations are key ways to save water, urging residents and businesses to check for and fix leaks on their property and familiarise themselves with permanent regulations governing water use for pools, gardening and vehicle cleaning, besides others.

“When residents and businesses have the necessary information to monitor usage, identify leaks and save water, they can make informed decisions to help prevent wasting water,” Mbandezi concludes.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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