Cape Town only has enough water stored 'for the next 100 days'. Here's what's about to happen...

18 January 2017 - 13:13 By Tanya Farber
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Cape Town’s dam levels are expected to dip to around 20% in the next few months with some experts warning that the city – which consumed up to 890-million litres a day for the week ending on January 15 – has only enough water stored for the next 100 days.

According to the experts‚ there will be drastic effects in both the short term and the long term if dams reach critical levels. Here are some of the consequences:

- Poorer quality water: Professor Bob Scholes‚ an expert in climate change at the University of the Witwatersrand‚ says that the quality of the water deteriorates when it reaches such low levels. “Contaminants are not diluted enough in a situation like that‚” he said‚ “The water tends to be warmer because it is shallower‚ and that leads to pollution problems as well.”

  • WATCH: Drone footage shows Cape Town's desperate water situationThe drought in the Western Cape has hit the Theewaterskloof Dam very hard, as this drone footage shows.  

- Unemployment: According to the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in the USA‚ when dam levels become dangerously low‚ farmers’ crops die as a result of the drought – and then farmers would then likely have to lay off staff to keep costs down. The drought thus makes unemployment worse.

- Health problems: The NDMC also highlights the social impact of the drought‚ saying we could expect‚ “Health problems related to low water flows and poor quality water‚ health problems related to dust‚ reduced incomes‚ and fewer recreational activities.”

- Lack of food and rising prices: According to Omri van Zyl of AgriSA‚ we can expect food price hikes. Produce under severe strain includes wheat‚ maize‚ beef‚ sheep and sugar

- Drought refugees: Experts also say that in the wake of a drought‚ population migration follows as people uproot themselves in search of food and water. This puts more pressure on already-affected areas.

  • Cape Town tightens the taps on water users and abusersWith just 100 days of water left‚ the gloves are off in Cape Town. 

- Boreholes: Chris Jack‚ a researcher at the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town‚ said boreholes are sunk in times of a lack of municipal water supply. But groundwater extraction "can have negative impacts such as land sinking‚ salt water intrusion in coastal areas like Cape Town‚ and a drop in water quality". Also‚ borehole pumps further strain electricity supplies.

Cape Town’s dam levels are now at 42.5 %.

“If current consumption continues‚ the City expects that dam levels could be at a level of approximately 20% by the start of winter. This leaves a very low margin of safety as it is difficult to extract the last 10% of a dam’s volume‚” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements‚ Water and Waste Services‚ Councillor Xanthea Limberg on Tuesday.

“We do not expect to run out of water before the next rainy season but constant water usage above the target of 800-million litres per day of collective use‚ as has been the case‚ is not sustainable.”

TMG Digital/The Times

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