Cape Town’s water users never managed to meet the stringent target of 450 million litres a day, set by the City when Level 6b restrictions were in force for most of 2018. But they are managing to stay well below the target of 650 million litres a day under the more relaxed Level 3 restrictions.
The City of Cape Town’s online water dashboard tracked consumers’ water consumption for 41 weeks, starting in mid-March.
For the week ending on December 24 — the last weekly measurement the City will record on the dashboard this year – consumption was 583 million litres a day, well below the daily 650 million litres target that was introduced with Level 3 restrictions on December 1.
Since the start of the month, weekly consumption was 563 million litres a day on December 3; 541 on December 10 and 585 on December 18.
But what the authorities are not able to predict is whether the water savings made by Capetonians — who were shocked into making drastic water cuts when faced with the possibility of the taps running dry on Day Zero — will be a permanent change in behaviour, or whether they will gradually move back to their former higher consumption now that the crisis has passed.
Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said earlier that past experience had shown that “the bounce back to old ways” in water consumption was generally slow, and that it took about five years to get back to old consumption levels.
There had been fears that, when the City announced in July that there would be no Day Zero, consumption would suddenly increase, but that did not happen.
The City said that before the drought – one of the worst on record – Cape Town residents were using 200 litres a person a day.
They now use around 125 litres a person a day, which is the gross consumption and includes residential and industrial use as well as water lost to leaks.
In comparison, Johannesburg’s consumption is between 300 and 350 litres a person a day.
With the relaxing of water restrictions from Level 5 to Level 3 from the start of December, irrigation farmers have a bigger slice of the water allocation.
When the national department of water and sanitation imposed restrictions at the start of the year, irrigation farmers dependent on water from the “big six” dams that make up the Cape water supply system, had to cut consumption by 60%.
This resulted in a R5.6-billion loss to Western Cape agriculture and 30 000 jobs.
With the relaxing of water restrictions at the start of December, agriculture was allowed to cut its water consumption by only 10%.
Carl Opperman from Agri Western Cape said while the increase in water was welcome, the jury was still out as to whether this increase would enable agriculture to fix the damage of the 60% water cuts introduced in January.
The City’s water dashboard showed that agriculture consumed 73% of the water supply over the past week; the City of Cape Town had consumed 24% and the remaining 3% was used by smaller municipalities.