Taps in Cape Town may not be turned off this year but meteorologists warn that winter rainfall to replenish the low dam levels was uncertain. Picture: Courtney Africa/ANA

Cape Town - Day Zero has been pushed back deep into winter, with the probability that the taps may not be turned off this year.
But meteorologists warn that winter rainfall to replenish the low dam levels was uncertain.

UCT climate scientist Peter Johnston said at this point there are “absolutely no predictions” of the expected winter rainfall.

These predictions he said could only be made by the end of April or May.

He said the rainfall had been below average so far this year. “We have less than our normal rainfall, but that doesn't mean we must panic as January and February are very dry anyway.”

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said earlier in the week that it was highly probable that Day Zero would not happen this year. But he said there was a “very real” possibility that it could happen during next year’s summer months if there was no significant rainfall during winter and people did not continue to save water.

“Through augmentation projects, we will be adding an additional 190Ml per day to the supply by the end of this year, growing to 220Ml in 2019, and plan to ramp it up to 300Ml in 2020.”

According to the City’s Day Zero Dashboard, dam levels were at 23.6%. Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy, said this was because the actual Day Zero according to their calculations would fall in August. She said they were hopeful that by that time there would be rain.

Limberg said there were plans in place for a long-term desalination plant, but this would be communicated at a later stage.

However, Cosatu’s Western Cape secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, remains sceptical on the issue, calling Maimane “a joke”. “He has no legislative standing. He has done nothing. We want Maimane to stay out of the water issue.”

Ehrenreich said Day Zero kept moving back in spite of the dams not receiving any new water. “Day Zero keeps being moved, supposedly on steps they have taken. No water augmentation plans have come online yet. To be able to move the date back means that Day Zero was never Day Zero.”

He said Cape Town was never going to run out of water this year but does believe there was a water crisis. “We have had an ongoing water crisis since 20 years ago. Day Zero was never going to be as bad as they made it out to be.”

He called for a better water management plan and for politics to stay out of it.

But the battle didn’t end there, he said, as the current punitive tariffs put in place by the City needed to be cut back for the poor, and wealthier people needed to be targeted.

Weekend Argus