File picture: Oupa Mokoena/Independent Media
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s water red alert restrictions have kicked in and dam levels are close to crisis point, say officials.

Collective levels stood at 79% in 2013, but storage has dropped to an alarming 36.2%, down 1.2% from last week.

Officials have warned that since the last 10% of any dam’s supply cannot be extracted, it means the city only has 26% of potable water left.

With the crisis growing more severe, many people are wondering what will happen if the city were to run out of water.

When asked about contingency plans, Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee member for water services, stressed that reducing consumption now was key.

“In the event that the rate of fall of the dams, which is expected to start slowing down as the seasons change, is not responding, the city will intensify the restriction rules further and drop pressures to inhibit high consumption.

“Restrictions must be adhered to as they were contemplated to be introduced during the design of the supply system as a component of the operating rules.

“Our system is designed and modelled on the fact that the operating rule for drought years is to introduce the necessary levels of restriction to limit the demand in order to ensure sustainable supply.”

At the start of Level 3B restrictions, collective use per day was at 800 million litres but Limberg said that has been dropped to 700 million litres.

“According to the January 2017 consumption, the highest water users are using far above 50 000 litres of water per month. Out of the almost one million customers the city supplies, most households are using an average of 20 000 litres per month or less.

“Those who will not reduce consumption voluntarily will be forced to. The installation of water management devices would assist households, businesses and other users to efficiently manage consumption.

“Warning notices have been issued in the rates bills of some of the metro’s highest use domestic, commercial and government department water users to further reduce consumption.”

Residents should also be prohibited from thinking that boreholes and well-points are quick fixes but the city stressed this was not an unlimited source of water, and that usage from these sources should follow the restriction guidelines.

“If too much groundwater is extracted too quickly, it may become depleted,” Limberg stressed.

“The uptake of boreholes and well-points is useful in taking pressure off our dams at a time when they are reaching dangerously low levels. However, it is important that we utilise it responsibly.

“For this reason, the city is recommending that customers with boreholes restrict their watering to the hours prescribed, or limit their watering to the early mornings and late evenings to avoid evaporation.”

Limberg added that the city would be lobbying for tighter regulations of boreholes and well-points.

“Residents are advised they would need to apply to sink a new borehole or well-point at least 14 days before it is installed. They are also reminded that once installed, boreholes need to be registered.”

Residents can report contraventions at water.restrictions@ capetown.gov.za

Cape Argus