City tightens grip on water usage

Running taps, right, and water pipes, left, are set to come under heavy scrutiny as the City of Cape Town tries to save water in response to a drought experienced by the province and other parts of the country.

Haul out your buckets and watering cans: Cape Town’s mayoral committee has approved Level 3 water restrictions from Tuesday November 1, with tariff increases to follow from Thursday December 1.

For residential users, the restriction means that watering or irrigation with municipal drinking water may only be done with a bucket or watering container and not with hosepipes or automatic sprinkler systems.

The same goes for washing vehicles or boats – no hosepipes, only buckets and the like.

Manual topping up of swimming pools is allowed only if pools are fitted with a pool cover. No automatic top-up systems are allowed. No portable play pools are permitted.

Water rates will go up and the more you use, the steeper the increase. This applies to sanitation costs as well, which are linked to water usage.

The tariff is designed so that the price per kilolitre of water goes up once the resident’s use for the month exceeds certain levels. For example: the first 6 kl (Step 1) is free. After usage exceeds 6 kl, but before usage reaches 10.5 kl for the month (Step 2), each kilolitre will cost R16.54/kl (up from R15.68/kl); after usage exceeds 10.5 kl, but before usage reaches 20 kl for the month (Step 3), each kilolitre will cost R23.54/kl (up from R20.02) and so on. If your usage exceeds 50kl, the cost will be R200.16/kl (up from R93.39/kl).

If a customer is on the Domestic Cluster tariff (flats/complexes supplied by a single meter), the Commercial tariff, the Backyarder tariff, the Industrial tariff, or any of the other specialised tariffs, they should consult tables available on the City’s website (

“Cape Town residents as a whole did not achieve the consistent 10% reduction in water use that was mandated from January 1 2016,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg. “If we continue to use water as we did on Level 2 restrictions over the coming summer months, the dams are at risk of falling to 15% by the end of the summer period. Following on, if we experience poor rainfall next rainy season, we could find our dams at approximately 50% this time next year.

“During drought cycles, such as the one being experienced, water restrictions and other water-saving and optimisation measures are necessary to ensure that water use does not exceed available water supply from the system of dams providing the city and broader region with water. While this may cause a certain amount of inconvenience and cost burden to our residents and businesses, it is important that we take a longer-term view and consider the possibility of the drought extending into the next winter rainfall period,” he said.

He said that the City would continue to optimise abstraction of water from the various dams in consultation with the national department and surrounding municipalities. “This may entail periodic adjustment to the bulk water distribution system, which could lead to intermittent water clarity issues or changes in water taste for those with sensitive palates. Should we experience unusually hot and windy conditions during summer, this may promote algal growth in the dams which could also give rise to an earthy taste and smell to the water. Activated carbon is utilised at the water treatment plants to remove most of the taste and smell. All water supplied will remain safe to drink.

“We will also be lowering distribution system pressures where possible to reduce leakage from municipal and private water systems. This will mean that water may flow more slowly from taps and fittings. We thank residents for their understanding in this regard.”

Details on current water restrictions as well as tips on how to save water can be found on