Western Cape dams critically low

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File: Various interventions include looking at alternative sources of water, backing farmers and putting water restrictions in place.

CAPE TOWN - Dams in the Western Cape are now critically low at only 18.6 percent of their total capacity and creeping ever closer to having fewer than 100 days of water left.

Amid water-quality concerns raised by citizens, the City of Cape Town plans to turn to increased re-use of water as a saving measure. 

Using 750 million litres of water daily, Capetonians are still failing to adhere to current water restrictions. Ideally, only 700 million litres should be used daily under current savings targets.

Now measures such as re-using waste water will be used.

READ: SA to start recycling wastewater

“The City of Cape Town already recycles and repurposes at least  percent of our water and this is predominantly utilised only for irrigation purposes," said Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services mayoral committee member Xanthea Limberg.

"However there is capacity to further recycle and reclaim water, whether it be from waste water or underground water for drinking purposes," she added.

The city says this water will be safe to drink, adding there is an explanation for complaints around water quality. 

“There is an actual compound that now and again resurfaces in the area, it is termed geosmin," Limberg said.

"It is not a health risk because we are also lowering the water pressure in our reticulation system. There's also a sediment that is rising up in the water."

Level four water restrictions might be put in place soon, in which case water-shedding would occur. But this comes with its own problems.

“The risk of water shedding is that when you shut down water for an extended period of time, air enters the pipes and that may result in burst pipes, so there is a risk of having to invest further capital," Limberg explained.

Other emergency measures being considered include additional boreholes, seawater desalination and tapping into the Cape Flats aquifer. These could increase water supply by a much-needed 27 million litres.

Decreased water pressure and increased fines for overuse by consumers are further measures in place.