The City of Cape Town’s water resilience plan, unveiled at a conference in August, will be delivering less than half of the expected supply as initially earmarked through desalination projects, groundwater extraction and water reuse.

A statement released on Monday by Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services, and Energy, stated: “The City continues to install water management devices on the properties of delinquent water users. Almost 7 000 have been installed to date. In addition, emergency augmentation schemes are progressing. It is foreseen that between 130 and 240 million litres per day will be at some stage of production between December 2017 and May 2018. This includes land- and sea-based desalination, water reclamation, and groundwater abstraction projects, if all goes according to plan. It must be noted that reducing consumption is non-negotiable, irrespective of augmentation projects coming online. We ask all water users to support us and to help us to get through this unprecedented drought which is affecting large parts of South Africa as well.”

Water rationing is now a reality in Cape Town, as the first phase of the the Critical Water Shortages Disaster Plan is rolled out. Included in yesterday’s statement were guidelines for rationing:


  • Keep between 5 and 10 litres of water available for drinking use only for the household during rationing (average of four persons per household). Please use your discretion
  • Keep additional water for pets. Pet owners should use their own discretion
  • Reconsider your water usage during peak water usage times. Flatten out the peak by showering (for no more than a minute) later in the evening or before 06:00 in the morning or do your washing after 21:00, as an example. Check for updates on advanced pressure management on CTAlerts ( and the City’s website ( Definitive advance timetables of the outages cannot be provided as water systems must be managed flexibly to avoid damage to critical infrastructure. Rationing does not work like electricity load-shedding. Unlike load-shedding where areas were switched off and on for a two-hour period, pressure management is introduced and remains active in an area all the time. This will provide sufficient water to most households most of the time. In instances of steep slopes or double-storey buildings local to an area, this reduction in pressure is likely to cause constraints. As outages due to increased use are beyond the City’s control, it is more difficult to use pressure management than load-shedding to manage demand. The City will, however, provide as much information as possible relating to areas to be rationed approximately 24 hours ahead of time
  • When you experience a loss of water supply and before you contact the City’s call centre, please check your neighbour’s supply first to see whether it is likely a case of rationing. Higher-lying properties will likely experience a higher risk of rationing
  • If you reside in or operate from multi-storey buildings, ensure that the water supply system (booster pumps and roof-top storage) is in working order in compliance with the Water By-law (
  • Ensure that all taps are closed when not in use to prevent damage/flooding when the supply is restored. Ensure that you take the necessary steps, such as speaking to your insurer if possible, to mitigate potential damage and for fire prevention. The City is not liable for any impact on or damage to private infrastructure resulting from the rationing or associated operations, in accordance with the Water By-law (
  • When supply is restored, the water may appear to be cloudy from the extreme pressure reduction exercise. Please do not waste the initial water. Store it and use it for flushing
  • Store essential water in a cool, dark place away from light and dust
  • Bottles must remain sealed to prevent contamination
  • Clearly label water storage containers as ‘drinking water’ as opposed to non-drinking water
  • Where containers (other than bottles) are to be used for storage, ensure these are cleaned and disinfected
  • Keep non-drinking water for flushing, particularly multi-storey buildings as the upper floors may not have water during pressure management cycles
  • Use less toilet paper as this requires less water to flush and prevents blockages. Only flush when required and close the lid of the toilet when flushing toilet bowls where urine has not been flushed. Use appropriate disinfectants and face masks and gloves where required
  • Wet wipes and sanitary pads are not to be flushed down toilets as these cause blockages – place these items in the bin
  • Do not use your toilet as a dustbin
  • Switch to one-ply toilet paper to prevent blockages when you choose to ‘let it mellow’
  • Ensure that any non-municipal supply water for drinking purposes is acquired from reputable companies who adhere to national safety standards. The City advises against bulk water acquisition unless a company can prove that they have not tapped into the municipal supply. If in doubt, contact the City to investigate
  • Use waterless hand-sanitiser where possible
  • Ensure that all fire extinguishers are in legal working condition. If possible, acquire fire extinguishers or increase the number of fire extinguishers in homes and buildings
  • Note that there may be a build-up of air within the water system when supply is restored
  • Note that toilets that use flush-masters will be ineffective due to the low pressures
  • Note that high-pressure solar water heaters are not at risk of damage from low water pressure or short periods of no pressure (water outages). In cases of low water pressure, the geyser or storage tank will be refilled at a slower rate and the solar water heater will not be adversely affected. Even in cases of water outages or zero pressure, high-pressure solar water heaters that are installed correctly can withstand short periods of time (a few days at a time) without water with no adverse effect on the pump or the panel.

Please note water restrictions and water usage targets may be changed at short notice in an effort to respond to the crisis at hand. This is a resilient municipality with resilient residents and businesses.

Dam levels have remained fairly stable since the end of winter, albeit far lower than in previous years.


Photography Andreas Eiselen / HM Images

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