Water restrictions across Cape Town

Water restrictions across Cape Town

There has been wide media coverage regarding South Africa’s prolonged drought. The intensely dry conditions have been well documented as the worst drought the country has experienced since 1904. The South African Weather Services recorded 2015 as the driest year on record and as 2016 draws to a close, the severe conditions show no signs of abating.

The drought has affected all nine provinces, causing a drastic reduction in dam water levels around the country, resulting in water restrictions in the majority of municipalities, including Cape Town.
Latest data indicates that the city’s six main dams that supply water throughout Cape Town have been showing notable decreases from 2012 to 17 October 2016. Dams include: Wemmershoek, Steenbras Lower, Steenbras Upper, Voelvlei, Theewaterskloof and Berg River.

Dam level percentages

With winter over, the dams’ water supplies have been declining minimally week-on-week, however this has an enormous effect over-time.  Within a one week time period, from 10 to 17 October, Wemmershoek has witnessed the biggest decrease, dropping by 1.6 % (67.5% – 65.9%) and this is followed closely by Steenbras Lower dropping by 1.5 % (65.3% – 63.8%).

Pushing the time-span further reveals a more worrying picture. The biggest drop took place from 2014-2015, at the onset of the drought, where dam levels decreased by an average of 20%. From 2015 to October 17, the average dropped by another 7% and in a four year period since 2012, the decrease was a massive, 43.3%.

Currently, Cape Town’s average dam water level is just over 62% – approximately 11% less than the same time last year.

Restrictions and tariffs

At the beginning of the year, the City urged residents to reduce their water usage to achieve a 10% reduction in water use – beginning from 1 January 2016. Unfortunately, this wasn’t achieved and the already implemented Level 2 restrictions was replaced by Level 3 restrictions, to be effective as of November 1.

Residents and businesses are restricted from the use of:
• Hosepipes and automatic sprinklers
• Portable play pools
• Automatic top-up systems for swimming pools. However, residents are allowed to manually top up their swimming pool, only if it is fitted with a pool cover.

The following is allowed when used only with a bucket or watering container:
• Watering/irrigation of gardens, lawns, flower beds and other plants, vegetable gardens, sports fields, parks and other open spaces, with drinking water from municipal supply.
• The washing of cars and boats

The City further stated that if residents continued using water on Level 2 restrictions, this will place the dams at risk of falling to an average of 15% at the end of summer.


Tariff increases are also in the pipeline, and if passed by the Committee, will become effective as of 1 December.
The tariff works according to each resident’s individual water usage and is charged once use for the month exceeds certain levels. It is calculated per kilolitre (kl) of water, for example:

• The first six kl is free
• Exceeding six kl but under 10.5 kl will cost R16, 54 per kl, per month
• Exceeding 10.5 kl but under 20 kl will cost R23, 54 per kl, per month
• Exceeding 20 kl but under 35 kl will cost R40, 96 per kl, per month, and so on.

For residents who live in flats/complexes provided by a single meter (Domestic Cluster tariff) the following tables explain how you will be affected:

2016/17 Level 3 water tariffs: http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Water/Documents/US-WS-Water Consumptive 30 percent.pdf

2016/17 Level 3 water tariffs: http://www.capetown.gov.za/en/Water/Documents/US-WS-Sanitation Consumptive 30 percent.pdf

Pam Sorel Properties advises that amid the current drought cycle, it is important to ensure that water is used sparingly so that water-use does not exceed water supply, especially over the summer period. The City has acknowledged that this will cause an inconvenience and increase costs, but has urged residents and businesses to keep in mind that the drought may continue into the next winter rainfall period, and therefore adherence to Level 3 restrictions is vital to get through these dry times.