The dreaded WMD (actually a WDM – Water Demand Management System) is here to stay. Many welcome it, others despise it. Whichever way we look at it, physically controlling high water usage is the only way forward. In fact, these devices have been in use since 2006 – initially to assist the indigent. But what do they look like and how do they work?WDM - aqualoc


Simplistically, a WDM is a valve that controls water flow. It allows a pre-set amount of water to flow, and then closes when said amount has been used. The valve opens again at a pre-set time to allow water to flow again -simple. Apart from controlling high water usage, it also prevents water losses due to leaks. In my opinion, its ability to prevent major water leaks is probably its best feature – the media often report on major water losses at private properties, without the occupants being aware of it. A WDM would have prevented that.


There are currently two suppliers of WDMs – Aqualoc and Utility Systems. Both devices are installed by contracted installers. The main differences between the two are:

  • Aqualoc is a one-piece unit which replaces your current water meter. It is a water meter and WDM in one. It is equipped with Automatic Meter reading (AMR), but the City is not using that capability.
  • Utility Systems is an electronic valve with LCD panel that gets added to your current pulse water meter (a meter able to send a signal to an electronic measuring device). If you do not have a pulse meter (ie, you have the the old brass one), then a new pulse meter as well as a Utility Systems WDM will be installed. This system is also capable of doing AMR.


Regardless of the brand of the WDM, the contractor will set it at a predetermined amount of liters per day (prior to 1 Feb 2018, this was 350 liters per day – stricter water restrictions may result in this being lowered, but it had not been confirmed by the time of writing this article). This is based on 4 people per household. It will allow you to use those allocated liters a day, then shut off. It will reset again at 04:00 the next morning allowing for the next amount of allocated liters to be used that day. Unused daily allowance will roll over, but the system will reset at the end of the month. At 04:00 on the 1st of every month you will start again and lose any accumulated liters from the previous month. This is to prevent water hoarding, which is NOT the point. It is also important to note that the fact that you have an allocated number of liters per month, does NOT mean you MUST use it all. We should all be conscientious and responsible, and we must try to use less.

Larger households (more than 4 people) can apply for an increase in daily allowance – the forms are available on the City’s Website.


  • Installation and maintenance issues: Soil and dirt that enters the system may cause the valve to jam. If the valve jams, the battery, which normally lasts 3 to 5, will work overtime in its efforts to allow the system to try and open/close the valve. The battery will then run flat in a matter of hours or days, causing the WDM to reset to factory settings. This may result in no water at all, until the system is flushed and reconfigured. Dirt can enter the system during installation or when there was a burst pipe in the area. Note, I am not going to speculate on the quality of the work performed by the contractors. That is not the purpose of this post.
  • Our own fault: While many of us will remain in denial, quite a lot of perceived problems are self-inflicted. Both devices can be accessed by laptop where usage stats can be retrieved. Some people use their full allocation and then deny it…. “I did NOT leave the door open… I did NOT use that much water….”, while the proof is there for all to see. If there is no leak, then you have used the water.


  • Open taps are the main reason these devices are perceived to fail. Some people do not know a tap is open, and the allocated water is then wasted as soon as the valve opens at 04:00.  By the time the occupants wake up, all their water is gone….
  • Furthermore, Some geysers have a 200 or 300 liter capacity. Just to fill that will take almost 80% of your daily allowance. Some top loaders use 190 liters…. etc, etc. Enough said. Regarding geysers, be aware of how much cold water is wasted before the water gets hot. Consider a point of use electric or gas shower head or faucet to reduce water wastage.


WDM - how to read the meter

  • The Utility Systems one is easy to read. You still have your water meter that will record total water usage. The Utility Systems WDM’s LCD screen will tell you how much of your allowance is left.
  • The Aqualoc does not indicate daily usage. It only indicates total usage, as many water meters do. It uses analogue dials for this purpose. This system also uses a ‘wet’ reading pane. This means there is water inside the reading pane. This is normal. If the water turns green and you cannot read the meter, open a tap ever so slightly to allow water flow. This should clear the reading pane.WDM - reading the digital meter


  • Frequently check for leaks – any leak on your side of the meter will reduce your daily allowance and cause the valve to close. Remember, not all leaks are visible. Some remain undetected for days and even weeks. Make a point to check for leaks at least once a week.
  • Familiarise yourself with the procedure to report WDM problems. Report the problem to COCT, get a reference number and then contact the supplier directly, if required, in an emergency. Both Aqualoc’s and Utility Systems’ support numbers are available on the internet. We may not like it, even deny it, but failure of electronic devices is a reality. If dirt enters the system and causes the device to fail, it is unfortunate, but NOT necessarily the fault of the device. Both devices are NRCS approved, so they are not of bad quality. The approval documents for both have been upload to Files on the FB Group.
  • I can hear you asking: “How do we prevent dirt from entering the system?”. This will be an issue to be discussed with COCT – a filter of some sort may have to be installed before the device. However, filters tend to clog, and will have to be maintained and cleaned. So, this is not an easy challenge to resolve.
  • Audit your personal water usage – know proactively how much you use. Manage your allocated amount carefully.

Now you know….

Disclaimer: WSWC is not affiliated with any of the two suppliers mentioned above. The info provided was posted in good faith and serves to inform members regarding the WDM devices.

Cape Water and Dams Report

photo-wk-berm-sokolic-gacci-27658115_10160184996450085_5877882200537258720_n Dams – Latest levels: Winelands and Cape Town

Report nr. 89 (updated 12th February 2018) on the main dams serving

Cape Town City and nearby Boland/Overberg towns


Last week, net outflows from the main dams dropped further to 5.8 M.cuM, or 0.7% of total dam capacity; vs the preceding week’s higher 7.2 M.cuM. Combined dam levels dropped during last week from 25.2% of capacity to 24.5% of capacity

In 2017, the main dams dropped by a far larger 10.4 M.cuM, falling 1.2% to 35.7% of full capacity.


Current status?

Combined water stored in the 6 main dams fell to 218.1 M.cuM (133 M.cuM of easily accessible water) (last year, levels dropped to 317 and 235 M.cuM respectively over the same period).

How long will the remaining fresh water last?

It is now clear that DWS has cut the use of water for irrigation purposes at or about the agreed 40% level. At the same time, the non-agricultural use of water has also dropped sharply as the new level-6b restrictions come into effect. According to my calculations, this past week the use of 5.8 M.cuM of water from the dams could probably have been split more or less as follows:

  • metro 3.6 M.cuM,
  • evaporation 1.7 M.cuM
  • other municipalities 0.4 M.cuM
  • residual agriculture 0.3 M.cuM
  • assume some rainfall run-off -0.2 M.cuM

Therefore the main target remains to drive use in the Metro down to the target of 450 ML/day and together with the other smaller municipalities down to a combined result less than 500ML/day.

The main irreducible current cause of the weekly drop in the combined dam levels is evaporation. Fortunately, evaporation will begin to decline as the ambient temperatures start to fall. By April it will be less than half of what it is now, and by June it will have halved again.

Of course a major once-off positive contributor over the coming 6-8 weeks will be water transferred from the Groenland Water Users Association pumped across into Steenbras Dam. This is expected to amount to some 8-10 M.cuM of fresh water, which should add two week’s supply to the WCWSS for the Metro and other municipalities. A life-saving, selfless donation by those farmers.

This unexpected inflow of water taken together with continued reduction in water use by residents indicates that water currently stored in the dams could well last until between mid- and end-June before the implementation of stage-2 (collection/rationing) of water supplies may be required.

The chart below indicates the position at the start of February. It is too early for a mid-month correction but the early indications are that my currently predicted water consumption for the month will again prove to be too high and that in February we will use less water than the 37.8 M.cuM expected. Remember also that the red block indicates that point where, had our water usage followed the same pattern as last year, we would already have hit “Day Zero”.


What actually is going on?


1) As this CoCT graph shows, most agricultural use of water has been closed off by DWS and the earlier steep rising usage curve is now starting to “flat-line” at/about the set maximum of 58 M.cuM for the total water used. Other than remaining pockets of unused quotas, use of water from the main dams by agriculture is all closed for this season.

2) It may be seen from the photo at the head of this report that DWS is modifying Voelvlei and Theewaterskloof dams to enable part of the water that lies in the deepest part of the dams to be pumped up to the level of the abstraction points, so that more of the water can be made available for the Metro and municipalities. At TWK (shown) the work involves creating a temporary berm to hold flows from the Sonderend River at a higher level for easier abstraction. Should these natural flows be insufficient, then more water will be pumped up from below this temporary berm to above it so that water can be sent through to the Berg River side. Through these modifications, DWS expects to be able to draw both these dams down to about 6% of capacity should that become necessary.

3) Residents of the Metro and other smaller municipalities are obviously making great strides to reduce their consumption of fresh water. As a result, Cape Town City which until recently seemed so stuck at a usage of 600ML/day has over a few weeks dropped sharply to ave 493ML/d during this past week. This is an outstanding result and shows just how well the residents are reacting to the call to use less water. The goal is to as soon as possible get this daily consumption down to 450ML/d or less. And it seems to me that could be achieved before end-February. We done everyone.

The following heavily altered CoCT tracker chart shows in overall terms what is going on (see here for a detailed explanation of how the chart is to be read).

City of Cape Town held its prediction of “Day Zero” at 11th May 2018 (point red ‘X’ in the chart). Although CoCT remains conservative in its estimates, this may be adjusted soon to a yet later date.

We are today at point red ‘Y’ (24.5% of capacity on 12th February). However, we are not only benefiting from the savings made by agriculture (the blue striped zone “E”, but more importantly as anticipated residential water usage reductions kick in (the blue-shaded zone “H”) we are starting to follow the curving dotted white line, trending toward point “I” on the revised lower line “C” at which the authorities would have to implement stage-2 collection/rationing of the disaster plan.

Our hope then is that winter rains together with early water production from augmentation initiatives (area “K”) will lift us on to the red dotted line “L” denoting steady recharge of the dam storage.


Therefore, I would like to suggest that instead of the dark negativity of “Day Zero” we now set ourselves a positive fixed target that we call “Success Day” and make that target getting to 30th June with at least 100 M.cuM of water left in the main dams. This would represent about 11% of capacity and, assuming that the DWS is indeed prepared to drop the dam levels down to 6-7%, would leave a safety margin of some 4-5%; so that even if we receive no rain at all there would still be enough water in the dams to support a stage-2 rationing program through until end-2018 by which time a number of augmentation initiatives will be producing extra water to relieve the situation.

In support of this notion of “Success Day” the present augmentation plans comprehend the production of 80ML/day of fresh water by July and 180ML/day of fresh water by December 2018.

More positively, if we can reach end of June with that much water still available, then we will be well into the rainy season and even with weak winter rainfall, recharge of the dams would have begun.

What are the authorities doing now?

The City of Cape Town reports that 526 ML/day of water was consumed from all sources but that it only used 493 ML/day drawn from the main dams. This implies that the augmentation initiatives have progressed to the point that they are producing the difference i.e. 33ML/d of fresh water.

The Metro has embarked on a massive information campaign using all possible ways to make the broader population aware of the problem and encouraging them to save water.

The Metro is also developing a program of volunteers to assist with the many tasks that will have to be dealt with if water supply to the taps is cut off, such as assisting at water collection points and caring for the most vulnerable. Read more here to see how you might apply to help.

The level-6b restrictions and sharply increased tariffs appear to be having a marked effect in encouraging less use of water. This is supported by further roll-out of pressure reduction systems  to reduce losses through piping and system failures.

CoCT has announced that it intends to release details of the Points of Distribution on Sunday 18th February. Sensibly, work on these expensive installations will be delayed until the last possible moment, in the hope that they are not needed at all.

The two initial temporary desalination plants at Monwabisi and Strandfontein are reported to be about 70% complete and should start producing fresh water next month. On the other hand, work on the V&A desalination plant has been delayed by intervention of the DWS Minister wanting a desalination unit from Durban to be installed there.

Drilling into the Cape Flats and TMG aquifers is proceeding.

DWS is making rapid progress on constructing the berm and pumping installations at Voelvlei and Theewaterskloof dams. It should be noted the cost of this work, being R12-15 million in each case, has been funded by DWS.

Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen stated that central government is working on the possible proclamation of a national state of emergency. To date three provinces (Western, Eastern and Northern Cape) have been declared local disaster zones, but this planned escalation would mobilise more resources of the state to assist all parts of the country facing the widening shortage of water.

See details of Cape Town’s  planned interventions to produce fresh water here.

Learn about water savings efforts by other Cape municipalities – read more here.

Hear me interviewed on Bok Radio here about the overall water situation in the western Cape

Do visit the City of Cape Town website to see additional graphically presented information regarding the water situation – very helpful.

1) See the full water status presentation here and

2) Check out water usage for your property and of neighbours, friends, using this interactive map.

What ought you to be doing?

1) Be “water warriors” at home and at the place of work. Make extra efforts to cut down on all possible use of water. By using a basin and large sponge, reduce the water used to shower to under one litre. One can do this daily with hair washed and oneself totally cleaned. All one gives up is the luxury of standing under a hot shower; a small price to pay for water security.

2) Join dependable social media groups and form local WhatsApp groups so as to stay in touch and benefit from tips and suggestions on how to reduce use of water. Have a look at this link.

3) Take care of personal hygiene and reduce health risks. Treat grey water being saved for flushing with Jik or vinegar to prevent smells and possible spread of bacteria. Wash hands regularly.

If you are a business owner or manager, I strongly recommend that, if you have not already done so, meet with your employees and take them into your confidence regarding what you believe may happen to your business as this situation unfolds. The situation is unprecedented and no one will have points of reference or past experience to draw upon. Employees are likely to be concerned and perhaps even fearful about their jobs, incomes and how they will cope.

By discussing the matter you would simultaneously make them all fully aware of the seriousness while encouraging their participation in implementing ways to cut down on water usage and may even generate good ideas on how to mitigate the possible negative impact of water rationing. One concept to consider – if it would be appropriate in the event of a possible slow-down or loss of some business – is to perhaps adopt a policy of work-sharing where those working in the same departments or doing the same work could between them share whatever reduced work might still be available in return for flex-time time off while earning proportionately reduced incomes. The main advantage being that some familiar work is far better than none.

Will the weather help?

2018-02-12-forecast-chartWell, as predicted, that cold front came through last weekend and variable amounts of rain fell across the SW Cape. Gratifyingly some rain fell in all the dam catchments. Run-off will already have reached dams with more to come. A good 33 mm of rain was measured at Dwarsberg which feeds the Berg River and TWK dams.

As I write there is a low pressure system north of Cape Town feeding rain with the possibility of thundershowers from the North West down towards Agulhas. Rains could be fairly widespread as this chart from NOAA/CPC indicates, with the possibility of stronger rainfall behind the mountains in the catchments area of the large dams. If you are lucky enough to be under a cloud …

Here is the rainfall chart for the dam catchments for the period since 1st April 2017. This tracks rainfall that is measured actually falling at the dams.


In Summary: outflows exceeded inflows by 5.8 M.cuM and combined dam levels fell to 24.5%.

Here are the levels of the six main dams serving the Cape Town/Overberg/Boland area.


Here are some of our updated thoughts of possible implications of “Day Zero”.

Plan ahead for possible water outages; here are points that could help.
Read our Indoors Water Savings Ideas here.
Read our Outdoors Water Savings Ideas here

Read about a D-i-Y household rainwater harvesting and tank system here

Read about South Africa’s desalination policies and initiatives.

Click here to see Winelands Weather forecast of possible near-term rain.
Report instances of piping failures and incorrect use to municipalities.

In Cape Town the contact details of the 24-hour Technical Operation Centre are: Email: Telephone: 0860103089 (choose option2: water-related faults) or SMS: 31373 (max 160 characters).

Tom Brown.

Retired international businessman with a background in Finance and IT; and now a fruit farmer.

Views expressed in this article, and comments in response, are those of the writer and commenters alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of ShowMe, nor is any warranty hereby given as to suitability for any purpose of a reviewed enterprise or as to the quality of offered advice, products, services or value. Copyright ShowMe Paarl. All rights reserved. Copy only with prior permission.

#ReduceTo50 – Step 3. The shower.

OK, so we’re all at some point in the journey to “50 litres per person per day”. None of us want to be queueing for 25l at a Point of Distribution. In the 1st post, we covered the need to find and read your water meter and know where the main stopcock is. In the 2nd we discussed the fact that the toilet in your house swallows more potable water than anything else, after any pool or garden you may have. Today, we talk about baths & showers.

Step 3. The shower.

Baths are so 2014; no one should be bathing much any more. You will battle to make the 50l per person target, if you are bathing instead of showering. If you have access to alternate sources of water (like a wellpoint, or rainwater) your bath can be used to store that water to be used for flushing the loo and cleaning the house. If you have a small child that needs to bath, you can either invest in a baby-dam, or buy a large basin.

Buy a low flow shower-head for your showers, or at least fit flow restrictors behind the showerhead. Shower every other day or every 3rd day if you can, using a washcloth and basin or a spray-bottle to sponge-bath on the days you don’t shower. You’re not going to die, and in fact you may find your skin will in fact be healthier for it. If you need to, use a bit more deodorant than you’re used to. Obviously if you work in a coal-mine every day, you’re going to have to be creative about bathing – maybe save some of the grey water to get the worst off!

Stand in a large basin while you shower, catch the cold water in a bucket while waiting for the hot to come through (and throw that in the bath) or better still, while summer is still baking the dry land, skip the hot and wash with cold. Wet yourself as quickly as you can, turn off the tap, soap and lather, then only turn the tap back on to rinse the soap off. This should not take more than 120 seconds and can be achieved in closer to 60 once you get practiced and if your hair is not as long as Rapunzel.

The grey water you catch in the basin you stood in can be transferred to one of a number of buckets you need to organise next your loo so that you no longer have to flush with clean potable water.

Another source of grey water is the washing machine, but more on that in the next post…


Water Leak Rebate – How to Claim

water leak rebate


water leak rebate - house leakingThe municipal bill has arrived in the post.  You open it leisurely, expecting to see a very low water account, after all, you have been saving water like crazy. WHAT…, how can this be? Forty kiloliters used for the month? It is impossible! You may have a leak… Consider claiming for a water leak rebate.


Do the quick leak test – ensure all taps are closed and no water is being used (no geysers filling up, washing machine being used, etc).  Observe the water meter. All digits and dials must be stationary. Nothing must move. If any dial or digit moves ever so slightly, you probably have a leak. Call a plumber to fix the leak as soon as possible, as you will be held liable for the water loss.


The City’s bylaws allow for a water leak rebate on undetected leaks.  This means that a reduction will only be allowed for underground leaks, or ‘leaks that are not otherwise visible to the eye’, in the primary plumbing system of the property. Leaks on plumbing to convenience fixtures such as irrigation systems, automatic filling systems to ponds, pools, fountains, etc, where the disconnection of these systems from the primary plumbing installation would have prevented the water wastage in the first instance, are excluded.

Bottom line? – If the leak was not visible to the eye or underground, and originated from the primary plumbing system, then you may qualify for a water leak rebate.


To qualify for a rebate, the following conditions will apply:

  • An owner is limited to one rebate claim in respect of each property that he or she owns. So, you cannot claim for a leak at a specific property more than once.
  • The cost of the wasted water will be shared equally between the City and the property owner, so the owner will always have to pay half.
  • The cost of the water will be calculated at the bulk water cost plus the estimated actual distribution cost. The City will therefore not make a profit on the wasted water.
  • The rebate will be calculated by comparing the average consumption over a corresponding period, to the increased consumption due to the leak. So, if your previous average consumption was 7KL per month, and the leak caused a consumption of 14KL, then the City will share the leak ‘induced’ wastage of 7KL with you.
  • The rebate period will extend over the last three ‘actual reading’ municipal bills. The City believes that you should have noted the excessive water use within three months and taken steps to fix the leak within this period. In the case of estimated bills, this period may be extended. What this means is that if it took you five months to realise you have a leak, they will only consider a rebate on the first three months.
  • To get a rebate, you will have to apply and pay for the installation of a water management device (WDM). This is to reduce the risk of further water losses from leaks.
  • An inspector of the City will come to verify that the leak has been fixed, before any rebate will be approved.

Bottom line? If you are willing to accept all the above conditions, then you can go ahead and apply for a rebate.


A qualified plumber needs to repair the leak. This plumber must supply you with a plumbing certificate (also known as Plumbers’ Report) detailing the following:

  • Exact location of the leak on the property,
  • The nature of the leak; and
  • Steps taken to repair the leak.

Take this Certificate to your closest walk-in municipal office.  Inform them you want to apply for a rebate due to an undetected leak.  You are welcome to take your recent accounts with you, but they will do a verification on the system regardless.  If you qualify, there will be a plethora of forms to be completed, including the application for a WDM.

Do not expect immediate action, an inspector will visit your property in due time to verify the quality of the leak repair.  Only after he or she submitted their report (assuming the repair was done to his or her satisfaction), will the City finally approve the rebate.


This part is optional, but I did that when I had a leak and no fine was forthcoming…

I suggest you send an email to and inform them that you had a leak and are not a serial water waster. Attach the plumbing certificate as proof and remember to include your account number.  A short email will do – just inform them about the leak, ask them to make a note on your account and to provide you with a reference number.  This should be sufficient to prevent a fine.

Disclaimer – if you were a high water user before the leak, this email will not assist in preventing a possible fine.

#ReduceTo50 – Step 2. Tackling the toilet.

By now, we should all be aware that we need to reduce to 50 litres per person per day, or end up queueing for 25l at a Point of Distribution.  For those wanting make sure they’ve covered all their bases, or are a little late in getting with the programme, we’re offering some unsolicited advice on what to focus on.

Step 2. The loo.

We’re assuming that you’re no longer watering lawns or flowerbeds or topping up your swimming pool with potable water.  If you are, you need to stop RIGHT NOW.  We are way beyond the point of even debating the ethics of doing that.  Just stop.  After lawns and pools (~35%), the next biggest culprit in most houses is the toilet (~30%).

You should not be flushing every time you pee any more.  If the smell offends you, there are sprays you can get to minimise the odour (Wee Pong, Albex, Probac to name a few, or make your own using brown vinegar).  The only time you should be flushing is for poo (#2’s). #2’s need to be flushed (preferably with grey water, but we’ll get to that).  If you put toilet paper in the loo every time you do a #1, and you only flush for #2’s, your toilet is going to clog.  Any paper that is used for #1’s should be placed in a small bin next to the loo, which has a lid that closes; this can be disposed of in the garbage, not down the loo. It’s a good idea to keep some medicinal charcoal in the house in case someone ends up with an upset stomach – lots of #2’s are going to deplete your grey water stocks fast.

Once you have your grey water system in place, turn off the stopcocks to the toilets – this reminds lazy people that they should only flush for #2.

If the situation gets very dire and there is no longer water to flush the loo, you may have to resort to the old bucket system.  We’re not there yet, but it is worth considering your options and having a few 25l buckets with sealable lids on hand just in case.  WWF have compiled a useful one-pager on sanitation during extreme water crises.

… tomorrow, we’ll tackle baths and showers… and grey water.


#ReduceTo50 – Step 1. Reduce to 50 or queue for 25.

Cape Town is finally realising that climate change is not a myth and that there is a real chance CoCT may have to turn the taps off within the next few months if we do not make a plan to use less water.  We need to reduce to 50 litres per person per day, or end up queueing for 25l at a Point of Distribution.

So, if you’re a little late to the party, here is what you need to do:

Step 1.  The water meter.

You cannot manage if you do not measure.  Every good manager knows that.  Find your water meter and read it. While you are at it, find the stopcock that you can use to shut off the water to your home; if a leak develops somewhere your side of the water meter.  With the new punitive tariffs  you could end up with a massive bill if you can’t shut your water off quickly.  Your meter should either be just outside or inside your fence, usually in one corner of your property.

Set a daily reminder on your phone.  Take a photo with your phone or jot down the meter reading at the same time each day.  If you don’t know how to interpret the dials and numbers, read here.  Create a daily water use log and not down the readings, your daily household usage and the usage per person.  Stick that on your fridge or door where the whole house can see it.  You should be well under 50 litres per person per day on average; if not, you need to take action quickly!

Next up, the loo


Water situation – statement by Mmusi Maimani


Date: February 6, 2018 | Posted in News | Plettenberg Bay News


Statement by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimani

Saving water is still the only way to defeat Day Zero

Day Zero is being progressively pushed back, but it is still a very real and present threat. All residents must keep within the 50 litre per day limit, which was the main message in my newsletter last week.

Thanks to a decline in agricultural usage, Day Zero has been pushed back to 11 May this week, from 16 April last week. And we can push this back still further in the coming weeks, through a combination of using less water and producing more water.

This has to be a team effort. We’ll only defeat Day Zero if we all pull together.

Using less water

Daily usage by the City of Cape Town is steadily coming down but at 547 million litres used per day, it is still far above our target of 450 million litres per day.

The city is reducing demand in two main ways.

  1. First, by implementing a stricter water restriction and tariff structure, which came into effect on 1 February restricting usage to 50 litres or less per person per day. The City is continuing with the mass roll out of water management devices at high consumption households. Over 30 thousand of these have been installed since 1 October 2017.
  2. And second, by reducing water pressure (“throttling”). It is not possible to water shed a specific area, like you would load shed electricity. The pipe system is a complex one, making it difficult to isolate specific areas. And letting the pipes run dry risks bursting them once water is returned to them. Even pressure reduction is a complex process. But the throttling will continue to intensify, meaning households will experience a noticeable drop in pressure and those in high-lying areas and in apartment blocks may be without water altogether for a period of no longer than 12 hours at a time. Nonetheless, an accelerated programme of pressure reduction valve installations has been in effect since last month, which allows the City’s engineers greater control over pressure. Not only does pressure management lower consumption by reducing the rate at which water flows to properties, it also reduces loss from leaks and pipe bursts.

In responding to droughts, demand management through restrictions and pressure reduction is recognized as international best practice. There was simply no way the City could have predicted the severity of this drought and been able to sustain ordinary supply levels to residents three years into the worst drought in history.

Producing more water

While expecting residents to do everything possible to use less water, it is also entirely fair that residents expect the City to do everything possible to produce more water.

For the next 60 days, an additional 67 million litres a day will be added to the system, transferred from the Palmiet-Kogelberg dam, which has had plentiful rainfall and is full. This has been a collaborative effort between the City and the farming community of the Elgin-Grabouw valley, to whom we are extraordinarily grateful.

Groundwater extraction from the Atlantis Aquifer has been supplying about 12 million litres per day for the past week, and we expect this to increase to around 30 million litres per day over the period 2018 to 2020 once the project is complete. Likewise, boreholes being drilled into the Cape Flats Aquifer should start adding a further 80 million litres per day and those into the Table Mountain Aquifer roughly 40 million litres per day from June, over the period 2018 to 2020. The City recognizes that groundwater extraction must be approached with great sensitivity, as aquifer water is a finite resource. The City intends to allow the natural recharge of aquifers in the medium term and ensure that any long term extraction is conducted sustainably.

Three temporary desalination plants are coming online soon. The Strandfontein plant is expected to produce a total of 7 million litres per day once it is fully up and running, with 2 million litres per day from March and the additional 5 million litres per day coming online in May. The V&A Waterfront plant is expected to start producing an additional 2 million litres from March. And the plant at Monwabisi is expected to provide 2 million litres per day from April and will be providing 7 million litres per day by May, once it is at full capacity.

Legal responsibilities

These projects appear to imply that it is the City’s legal responsibility to provide bulk water. It is not. Almost everything the City and Western Cape Province are currently doing to augment water supplies is technically outside their legal mandate.

The budget and responsibility for bulk water supply and storage resides 100% with the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). Section 3 of the National Water Act states:

(1) As the public trustee of the nation’s water resources, the National Government, acting through the Minister, must ensure that water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner, for the benefit of all persons, and in accordance with its constitutional mandate.

(2) Without limiting sub-section (1), the Minister is ultimately responsible to ensure that water is allocated equitably and used beneficially in the public interest, while promoting environmental values.

(3) The National Government, acting through the Minister, as the power to regulate the use, flow and control of all water in the Republic.

DWS’s infrastructural budget for the year 2017/18 was R12.2 billion. The DWS has only spent R5 million of this in the Western Cape over the past 3 financial years – on clearing a build-up of silt in the Voelvlei Dam Catchment Area, a project they failed to complete. (The Western Cape government, using budget that was not technically available for that purpose, completed the work of cleaning the water canals.)

Local municipalities are responsible for delivering water from dams to households, with as little wastage as possible. This year, the City of Cape Town has further reduced the volume of water lost to leaks, theft and faulty meters. Our average loss rate is 16% against a national average of 36%.

It is vitally important that South Africans understand the legal distribution of responsibilities, because most of the country faces water shortages in the very near future. Water is already running out in parts of Eastern Cape, KZN, Free State and Limpopo. Lesotho’s dams, which feed parts of the interior, are very low. Many smaller towns have experienced periods of dry taps in the recent past. Last week, the DWS confessed that the taps may run dry across the country within the next few years.

Many more cities will soon be staring down the barrel of a Day Zero gun. We cannot lurch from one local water crisis to the next blaming local and provincial governments each time. And it is reckless for anyone to drive the false narrative that they are responsible.

Blaming local and provincial authorities for water shortages in 2018 is like blaming them for load shedding in 2008. It’s simply irrational. But worse than that, it lets National Government off the hook at a time when we need to be holding them accountable like never before.

If anything good has come out of the Cape drought crisis, it is the loud and clear message that water is the lifeblood of our economy and society. With the realities of rapid population growth, urban migration and climate disruption, we must put water planning and management centre stage. And we must all start treating it as the precious resource it is.

Thank you to all those Day Zero heroes who are already doing so!

Mmusi Maimane DA Leader

Dams – Latest levels: Winelands and Cape Town

Latest report (updated 22nd January 2018) on the main dams serving

Cape Town City and nearby Boland/Overberg towns


Water consumption spiked last week to 12.7 M.cuM, 1.4% of total dam capacity; vs the preceding week’s 9.6 M.cuM. Combined dam levels dropped from 28.4% of capacity to 26.9%.

During the same period in 2017, the main dams dropped by a far larger 18.9 M.cuM, with the dams sinking back then by 2.1% to 39.9% of full capacity.

Read More At Toms Blogs

Day Zero Date – a basis of calculation.

Calculation of likely Day Zero date

Using current and likely future water consumption patterns, projected as at end-February 2018.



I comprehend the gradually changing water consumption patterns in my model and therefore my predictions of steadily falling weekly water consumption results in the dotted black line curving away to the right and indicating a “Day Zero” date falling around 30th June at point ‘Y’, depending upon how well households further reduce their water consumption over the coming 4-5 months.


Going through it step-by-step.

Starting from the 37.5% total storage at beginning November 2017, the business-as-usual consumption expectation indicated a sharply descending fall in dam levels, originally predicting Day Zero as being during week of 13th February 2018 when total storage would drop to the 13.5% level set by CoCT; that point when they would move to stage-2 of the disaster plan.

Then in November 2017 we enjoyed unseasonal rain in the catchments that lifted dam levels and effectively moved the predicted Day Zero out by two weeks to the last week of February.

My information at that time was that the so-called 10% of ‘inaccessible water’ in the dams was in no ways definite and that if necessary, given some extra filtration, more of that last ‘dead water’ could be accessed. In fact, the dams could be drawn down to virtually zero but not easily in all cases. So I assumed that they would be pulled down to, say, 7.5% (line “D”) thereby making more available for consumption. That in turn allowed a corresponding drop in the Day Zero trigger level from 13.5% to 11% of capacity (line “B”) while still retaining the same stage-2 reserve of 3.5% of capacity “E”). This pushed the point where line “A,B” intersects the 11% line out into March. [In the meantime DWS has announced that they are preparing to pull both Voelvlei and Theewaterskloof dams down to zero if necessary. That would make yet more water available.]

The next major change in November was when DWS imposed new limits and cut agricultural water allocations to just 40% of normal. The effect of this massive reduction in overall water consumption is reflected by the blue-striped zone, labelled “F”the current position being where the actual consumption (denoted by the red ‘X’) now lies. Without further savings then the theoretical Day Zero date would be around end-May 2018, on the disaster stage-2 line (point “G”); by then dam levels could have dropped to 11.0% of capacity.

Although they have been drawing their water allocation fast, in fact agriculture has rapidly reached the 40% limit and the irrigation flows were largely cut off by end-January with most of the rest reaching the limit and closing by end-February. The net effect will be that the agricultural sacrifice has extended the communally available water supply out to late May (point “G”). At that stage agriculture’s contribution should be exhausted and “Day Zero” will have arrived for all the farms.

In February 2018 it was announced that the Groenland Water Users Association (Elgin/Grabou) would release their surplus stored water to be pumped through to Steenbras dam. This donation is expected to add 8-10 M.cuM of water to the SW Cape water supplies and help us to reach a point half way between “G” and “I”.

Now, although rain should start by June this is still too tight and the business and household users in the metro and municipalities must save stringently and meet their reduced allocations. In January the CoCT was running at about 586ML/d but has subsequently dropped down to the current level of 510-520 ML/d.

From 1st February level-6B restrictions require consumers to further reduce to 50L/person/day. Residents now must cut usage in order to save that blue zone labelled “H”. This action would make all the difference and enable us to reach “Success Day”, defined as arriving at 30th June 2018 with 100 M.cuM of fresh water still stored in the dams (point “Y”). Average consumption is still up in the area of 75L/p/d  and every effort must be made to encourage that half of the population that is still using too much water to stop doing so (hopefully the new harsh tariffs will help).

As I write, the point red “X” lies at 23.7% of capacity on 26th February – the small yellow circles with ‘x’ mark the previous positions of “X” over the immediate past. Graphically the task is to make sure that, as position red “X” moves along,  it stays on or to the right of the dotted black line, which will show that we are achieving or doing better than our weekly consumption target. At the moment we are doing very well due to the water being donated from the Palmiet system.

If we do reach mid-year with sufficient water in the dams, then nature should start to help with winter rains and low evaporation commencing late-May, but surely in June (yellow zone “I”).

Last but not least, various augmentation initiatives should be starting to make steadily growing contributions (brown striped zone “J”) and, in the final analysis Cape Town should just skim past the lowest point and out of immediate danger. In fact, hopefully the total available water will recover along the heavy dotted red line as the dams recharge, labelled “K”.

In summary, this outcome depends clearly on three main things:

1) the dams will be drawn down at least into the range of 6% – 7.5% of capacity if needed!

2) agriculture is exhausted, so businesses & households must now reduce consumption to 50L/p/d.

3) at least normal rains needs to arrive to start recharging the dams from July onward.

If rains once more fail and Day Zero arrives, then we will at least know we have done our best!


Tom Brown,

retired international businessman and fruit farmer in the Klein Karoo.

26th February, 2018.