City of Cape Town requests relaxation of water restrictions

The request was made at a meeting last Friday, when dam levels were recorded to be at 60.1%. (David Harrison/M&G)

The request was made at a meeting last Friday, when dam levels were recorded to be at 60.1%. (David Harrison/M&G)

The City of Cape Town has asked the national department of water and sanitation to marginally relax water restrictions for Capetonians after dam levels rose to above 60%. It is the first time the city has made such a proposal since the drought crisis first caused panic in the Cape.

Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson said in a statement on Monday that the national water and sanitation department would respond to the city’s request on August 31. The request was made at a meeting last Friday, when dam levels were recorded to be at 60.1%.

READ MORE: Beaufort West runs out of water

In August 2017, the dams supplying the Cape were at a worrying level of just 34.1%, but water conservation efforts — firm restrictions imposed on citizens — as well as rainfall have helped to increase dam levels in 2018.

“As the water supply situation has improved adequately, it is essential that an appropriate relaxation of restrictions takes place as soon as possible, not only so that economic activity can be improved, but also so that water tariffs can be relaxed from the current high levels to give the necessary tariff relief to households and businesses,” Neilson said in his statement.

The current water restrictions — which were established by the national water department — have seen urban residents cut their water usage by 45% in comparison to their average use in 2015 before the drought hit.

READ MORE: Drought crisis: Three provinces declared national disasters

In 2015, the city consumed 1.2-billion litres per day, whereas its average consumption over the past week has been 513-million litres per day. In their meeting with the water department, Neilson said a proposal was made for the city to be allowed to increase its water consumption by 5%.

In agriculture, water usage has been forced to drop by 60% in comparison to the average use in 2015. The city has proposed that agriculture be allowed to increase its water use by 10%.

Across the Cape, residents have taken to social media to demand that the city relax restrictions so that water tariffs can be reduced. The tariffs were increased this year after the city said the lack of water usage meant lost revenue for city coffers.

Neilson said the request for relaxed restrictions would ease water tariffs.

“The city has advocated for a conservative relaxation of the restriction levels, which would pave the way for the associated relaxation of the restriction tariffs,” Neilson said.

READ MORE: How Western Cape farmers are being hit by the drought

The city has also expressed its gratitude to residents for their efforts to save water.

“As always, we are grateful to our water users for all of the effort and sacrifices that have been made to get us all through this extreme phenomenon,” Neilson added. 

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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