Cape Town water supply unlikely to hit ‘Zero Day’ this year

Huge reduction in usage helped stave off water shortage crisis feared for mid-April

People queued to collect water from a spring in the Newlands suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, in January as fears over the city’s water crisis grew. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

People queued to collect water from a spring in the Newlands suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, in January as fears over the city’s water crisis grew. Photograph: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

 

Cape Town’s municipal water supply is unlikely to run out in 2018 if the city’s current consumption rates remain steady and rainfall this winter mirrors the amount that fell in 2017, South Africa’s Democratic Alliance (DA) party has said.

Giving an update on the current water status in the Western Cape province capital, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Tuesday that a massive reduction in water usage over the past few months had for now likely staved off the catastrophe.

“I am happy to announce today that provided we continue consuming water at current levels, and we receive decent winter rainfall this year, ‘Day Zero’ will not occur in 2018,” he told reporters.

South Africa’s main opposition party has run Cape Town for more than 10 years, and it has been leading the city’s response to the crisis, which has included getting residents and businesses to drastically reduce their consumption.

Unusable levels

In January officials warned that the combination of an ongoing unprecedented drought in the area and unsustainable water consumption meant its six feeder dams would reach unusable levels by mid-April.

However, since then water-saving efforts by residents and local farmers coupled with some recent rainfall have steadily pushed Day Zero further out. Day Zero is when the city is forced to turn off residents’ taps due to a lack of water supply.

The latest data from the city shows that its six feeder dams were on average 23.5 per cent full as of March 3rd. Consumption now sits at between 510 and 520-million litres per day – down from almost 1.2-billion litres a day in February 2015.

“This 60 per cent reduction in consumption is an incredible achievement, and outperforms many other cities across the world which faced severe droughts,” Mr Maimane said.

Queueing by the public for water rations will begin once the dam levels drop to 13.5 per cent full because of the difficulty in extracting the last 10 per cent of the dams’ full capacity.

Future availability

If Day Zero arrives, up to two-million Cape Town residents will have to queue at 200 designated points around the city for a daily quota of 25 litres of water.

On Monday, officials urged residents to keep saving drinking water, because despite the good progress there were real concerns about the future availability of the increasingly precious resource.

The city has calculated that if winter rainfall matches last year’s, water augmentation plans reach 80 per cent completion over the coming months, and consumption drops to the 450Ml per day, average dam levels are expected to peak at only 37 per cent by November.

Tuesday’s announcement by Mr Maimane was the third time the city has managed to push Day Zero out from April 12th, when it was originally expected to arrive.