Two years ago, Cape Town faced Day Zero — now dams are 99.5% full

29 September 2020 - 06:00
By mpumzi zuzile AND Mpumzi Zuzile
Gamka Dam in drought-stricken Beaufort West on November 8 2017. Most dams in the Western Cape have made remarkable recoveries since then.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES Gamka Dam in drought-stricken Beaufort West on November 8 2017. Most dams in the Western Cape have made remarkable recoveries since then.

The dams supplying Cape Town are nearly at 100% capacity, the latest dam report reveals.

Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning Anton Bredell said the average level for dams in the Western Cape has increased to 79.2%, compared to 66.1% in 2019.

The latest levels for dams providing water to Cape Town average 99.5%, compared to 81.5% in 2019.

Between 2015 to 2018, Cape Town had one of the longest and most severe droughts in recent times. Rainfall declined from an annual average of about 493mm in 1993 to about 149mm in 2017.

Residents rallied together to avoid Day Zero by rationing water, letting gardens dry out, reusing greywater, showering in a bucket, switching off taps at the source, reporting leaks and being frugal with flushing.

Bredell says recent rainfall over the province continues to see dam levels creep upwards to new highs.

“These are the best levels we have seen since 2013/14 and in some areas the best levels we have seen in a decade. We continue to monitor and support where possible the regions where sufficient rainfall has not yet fallen. This is largely within the Karoo regions of the province,” he said.

Bredell called on the public to continue to use water as responsibly and sparingly as possible.

The current Western Cape dam levels are:

  • Voëlvlei Dam — 98.5% full this week (2019: 99.3%. Last week: 100.42%);
  • Bergriver Dam 100.6% full this week (2019: 99.3%. Last week: 100.4%);
  • Theewaterskloof Dam — 99.57% full this week (2019: 71.6%. Last week: 98.08%);
  • Garden Route Dam — 93% full this week (2019: 62.01%. Last week: 93.5%); and
  • Clanwilliam Dam 100.8%. (2019: 98.6%. Last week: 99.08%)

But it's not good news in all parts of the country.

The department of water & sanitation has warned that if warm conditions continue without heavy rain soon, municipalities in some parts of the country could be forced to introduce stringent water restrictions.

Dams in many parts of the country are dropping by about 1% week-on-week.

“The situation is particularly dire in the Nelson Mandela region of the Eastern Cape, where the water-stricken municipality has declared Day Zero. The municipality has sent an SOS message for the government’s immediate intervention,” said the department.

“Also in dire straits is the Mopani District in Limpopo, where three local dams have dropped below 20%. There is virtually no water in Middel-Letaba Dam. The absence of water in Tzaneen has affected the citrus industry and unless there is some form of intervention the region may experience severe drought. Modjadji Dam dropped from 12.2% to 11.2%,” said the department.

Though the Free State has the most water because of its big dams, water levels have been falling there too. The Free State and Gauteng have experienced warm temperatures — affecting the rate at which water evaporates.

Northern Cape dam levels dropped from 92.1% to 87.7% recently and the North West dropped from 65.9% to 63.9%. KwaZulu-Natal saw declines from 55.5% to 54.9%.

“Dams in Zululand and Umkhanyakude district are reportedly in a desperate situation as most towns are facing serious water challenges.”

But in the Western Cape, the outlook is entirely different. “At this rate the levels are set to shoot through the roof by the end of the province’s hydrological season. The abundance of water is likely to boost the local economy astronomically, as the wine industry will export more wine,” said the department.

Last week the department announced that more than R50m has been made available for drought intervention in Eastern Cape municipalities, the water and sanitation department said on Tuesday.