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'Use water only for drinking, bathing and cooking'

A vastly depleted Theewaterskloof Dam as seen earlier this month. It is Cape Town's largest supplier of water. Picture: Water from Air

A vastly depleted Theewaterskloof Dam as seen earlier this month. It is Cape Town's largest supplier of water. Picture: Water from Air

Published May 16, 2017


Cape Town - The water crisis the City of Cape Town has been trying to avert has hit with full force, and the municipality has sounded the alarm for consumers to limit their water use to drinking, bathing and cooking.

In what it called “a critical warning”, the mayoral committee on Tuesday implored the city council to immediately implement Level 4 water restrictions, which would entail a ban on the use of all municipal water for outside and non-essential purposes.

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The emergency comes as collective dam levels continue to drop – they are effectively at just over 11% capacity this week.

The situation has become so serious that some dams are being dredged to scoop out mud, weeds and rubbish to prepare for low-level extraction of water.

“Rain or shine, we are now at a point where all consumers must use below 100 litres a day,” said mayco member for water services Xanthea Limberg.

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The latest consumption had jumped up again to 718 million litres, 118 million litres over the consumption target of 600 million litres.

The measures suggested to reach this target include only flushing toilets when necessary, showering for less than two minutes a day or using a wet cloth for a “wipe-down”, and collecting all would-be wasted water and using it to fill up toilet cisterns, Limberg said.

“We are essentially saying that you are only allowed to use a bit of water for drinking, cooking and washing,” she said.

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“We are reaching a critical point in this drought crisis and although we continue to work non-stop to force consumption down, overall use remains catastrophically high."

“This is not a request. We have seen huge water-saving efforts, but the unseasonably hot autumn is exacerbating the situation and we must all do more.”

The city said it was engaging with the Department of Water and Sanitation as a matter of urgency to request additional dredging operations at Theewaterskloof Dam, which, of the six major dams, was the closest to depletion.

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Limberg said pressure reduction programmes were continuing across the metro, which forcibly reduced supply at a given time.

“Other emergency interventions are under way, and if required, the city will start to implement a lifeline supply of water across the metro,” she said.

Noordhoek resident Ron Zeeman, who has been studying rainfall patterns for more than three decades, said the average rainfall of around 800 to 900mm a year was expected to drop to around 700mm this winter.

Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich criticised the municipality, saying “a plan that sees more than just the press statements on the reduction targets” was needed. “We need actual work and alternatives to be developed.”

Here's how to save every drop:

* Only flush the toilet when necessary. Don’t use it as a dustbin. In other words, “if it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down”.

* Take a two-minute shower. A standard (non-water-saving) showerhead can use as much as 16 litres a minute.

* Collect your shower, bath and basin water and re-use it to flush your toilet, and for the garden and cleaning.

* Defrost foods in the fridge or naturally, rather than placing it under running water

* Use a cup instead of running taps in the bathroom or kitchen for brushing teeth, shaving, drinking, etc.

* Wait for a full load before running washing machines and dishwashers. The rinse water from some washing machines can be reused for the next wash cycle.

* Switch to an efficient showerhead which uses no more than 10 litres a minute, as per the city’s by-law.

* Upgrade to a multi-flush toilet and/or put a water displacement item in the cistern which can halve your water use per flush.

* Fit taps with aerators or restrictors to reduce flow to no more than six litres a minute, as per the city’s by-law.

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Cape Argus

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