Cape Town dams may be 100% full, but City says that’s no reason to be complacent

Theewaterskloof Dam Six years ago. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Theewaterskloof Dam Six years ago. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 3, 2023


Cape Town - Despite recent rains that have resulted in Cape Town dams reaching levels last seen in 2014, municipal, provincial and national authorities continue to urge citizens to use water sparingly.

At 100.8% Cape Town’s dams are practically overflowing, but Mayco member for water and sanitation Zahid Badroodien issued a statement in which he said the healthy dam levels should not give city residents a false sense of water security for the future.

Baadroodien said the City’s Water and Sanitation Directorate was now focused on its New Water Programme plans to bring an extra daily 300 million litres of water online by 2030.

“Our water resilience is important for our residents and for economic growth in Cape Town. For this reason, we need more than just dams to ensure our water supply is resilient for years to come, as clearly highlighted by our customers during the drought, to help navigate future climate shocks.”

Just six years ago, Cape Town faced a water crisis that had residents, the City and the provincial administration so concerned there was talk of Day Zero, when the dams would run dry.

Dam water levels had been decreasing since 2015, but the crisis peaked from mid-2017 to mid-2018 when water levels hovered between 14 and 29% of total dam capacity.

Theewaterskloof Dam is mainly known for being the largest man-made dam in the Western Cape. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Authorities sought ways to battle the shortage, including building desalination plants, extracting groundwater from aquifers, and reducing water leaks due to ageing infrastructure

In 2018, as things began to improve, the day Cape Town taps were predicted to run dry was moved from late April to the first week of July.

This week, national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) spokesperson Malusi Rayi said the latest provincial hydrological report showed the Western Cape Water Supply System, which supplies water to Cape Town and its environs, was comfortably at 99.1%. He said this was a “significant increase” compared with the 75.4% the system was at a year ago.

Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said the provincial population was predicted to grow 1.6% annually from 2022 to 2032.

“This translates to our population growing from 7.2 million to 8.4 million, which means more water will be needed each year to support the population and the economy,”

Bredell said although the province should be grateful the dams were full, the flood damage should also be seen in the context of climate change and the understanding that future flooding and droughts would be more intense.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape government yesterday agreed to proceed with applying to the National Disaster Management Centre to have a provincial disaster declared due to damage suffered from the severe weather from June 14 to 19.

Bredell presented his executive council colleagues with a consolidated damage report compiled by the provincial Department of Local Government.

The report said that after taking into account insured damages, damages not associated with the flooding, and the ability to reprioritise funding within existing budgets, unfunded damage had been calculated to be R703.3 million.

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Cape Argus