Cape Town moves to counter shortage of city’s usable water


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The City of Cape Town is considering building various small-scale emergency water supply schemes in the short term amid fears the metro will run out of usable water in about 100 days.

The city, which has received below-average rainfall in the last five years, remains a water-scarce area despite being almost completely surrounded by sea.

City officials have said water rationing could soon be introduced to conserve available water should dams drop to dangerous levels before the onset of the rainy winter season, which usually begins in May.

As of Monday, dam levels had dropped to 28.6%. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, dam levels are effectively at about 18.6 % of usable water with about 103 days of usable water left at current consumption levels.

Consumption last week reached 750-million litres per day of the collective usage target of 700-million litres.

Xanthea Limberg, the city’s mayoral committee member responsible for water and waste services, said the metro had intensified its focus on measures to conserve water.

The city was also looking at small-scale emergency water supply schemes, which include drilling boreholes into the Table Mountain group aquifer that has a yield of about 2-million litres per day.

A small-scale desalination package plant, on Cape Town’s northwestern coastline that has a yield of about 2-million litres per day, as well as intensifying the city’s pressure management and water demand management programmes to reduce water demand further are also in the mix.

Limberg said in the event that there was another winter of below-average rainfall, the city would expand and fast-track the emergency schemes.

The city would also consider expanding the emergency seawater desalination package plant for an additional yield of  2-million litres per day.

Desalination remains a long-term solution.

Kevin Winter, of the University of Cape Town’s department of environmental and geographical sciences, said Cape Town authorities should have done more to diversify its water supply and implemented projects to use treated sewage and effluent.

"Ninety-eight percent of water comes from dams and that is crazy," he said. "We use untreated, high-quality water for everything we can think of."




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