High-level meeting to be held to decide on easing of Cape Town water restrictions
The Department of Water and Sanitation is expected to hold a high-level meeting on Friday to assess whether the severe water restrictions in Cape Town and surrounding areas can be relaxed.
Regional head of the department Rashid Khan said on Thursday that there had been requests from users of the Western Cape Water Supply System, including the City of Cape Town, irrigation boards and organised agriculture, to reassess the water restrictions now that winter rains had filled supply dams to 55.8% of storage capacity.
"I don't want to pre-empt the outcome of the meeting, but I can say we, as national government, will sit together around the table with all the users on Friday and talk about the possibility of relooking at the restrictions," Khan said.
"There have been requests to the minister about this. We are in a much more favourable position now than we were, and we want to look at how we can go forward. The restrictions are a little bit harsh at the moment."
This is the first time since the restrictions were gazetted in summer for the drought-stricken Western Cape that the national government has said it will consider easing the restrictions.
Earlier, it had said restrictions would be reassessed only at the end of the rainy season in September or early October, or if the dams reached 85% of storage capacity before that.
In the face of the worst drought in 100 years, the department cut water supply to agriculture by 60% and by 45% to Cape Town.
The City translated this to level 6B restrictions, introduced on February 1, which limited each person in Cape Town to 50 litres of water a day. Level 6B restrictions are still in place.
This time last year the combined storage of the six Cape supply dams was 26% - just under half the 55.8% it is today.
In May, the combined storage of the six Cape supply dams dropped to an all-time low of 20%.
'We have to be cautious'
Khan warned that while the position looked good now, there was no telling whether the rest of the rainy season would bring good rains.
"So we have to be cautious. We would be in a much better position to make an informed decision at the end of August or early September. We don't control rainfall, we just control what rainfall we get," Khan said.
The water situation on the West Coast was also looking better with Voelvlei dam at 54.6%. This supplies 22 towns on the West Coast, and tops up the Misverstand Dam, which supplies Saldanha Bay.
The national department does not set the level of water restrictions. Local municipalities set these once the national government has told them the percentage of water they have to save.
Cape Town Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said on Thursday he would like to see water restrictions eased "progressively" from the strict level 6B restrictions to less severe level 5 and then 4.
"This is so that the impact on water demand can be progressively assessed for each level before deciding on a further move," Neilson said.
Level 5 water restrictions allow Capetonians to use 87 litres a person a day, and level 4 restrictions allow 100 litres a person a day.
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