Cape water consumption threatens storage levels

CAPE TOWN - The days of watering your garden with municipal water in the Western Cape may never come back despite Cape town’s six main dams sitting at 76 percent capacity. 

WWF South Africa says consumption in Cape Town has increased since water restrictions were eased, and if residents are not careful, drought conditions in the province will continue to get worse. 

After bountiful wet winter months, water levels at Cape Town's six dams are sitting pretty as half are over 90 percent full and Theewaterskloof, the largest of the dams, is almost at 60 percent capacity.

There is, however, no time to relax because water storage in the province is again being threatened, due to an increase in consumption.  

Coupled with the decrease in water tariffs, locals seem to be abandoning extensive water saving measures, causing a drop in dam storage levels.

READ: Drought-stricken Cape Town counts the cost

Christine Colvin, senior manager of WWF South Africa's Freshwater Programme, said, "We've been very lucky this year with our winter rainfall and so we have replenished the dams substantially but with not knowing the forecasting capability in the Western Cape in particular over the seasonal and short-term, over the next year where we have no idea."

"We can't predict what the rainfall is going to look like next winter. So although we had good rainfalls this winter we need to make the most of those and assume we may have weaker rainfalls next winter and we need to make the best of what we've got now."

As the panic of a Day Zero set in, desalination plants were thought to be the City's Hail Mary. 

Three temporary plants are already up and running, but plans for a permanent one is being reconsidered. 

Xanthea Limberg, MMC for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, says the R553-million received from the national government towards drought funding, will be used to continue with exploration at three different aquifers in the city.

Feeder dams are now standing at over 70% of their collective capacity. This means residents and farmers will see decreased water tariffs and fewer restrictions.