Dams Rains - Vaal Dam Levels Increase For Second Week in a Row! After 6 long years of waiting for rain... Cape Town dam levels increase to 100,8%!
Photo Cred: PixaBay

Dams supplying Cape Town have for the second year running crested the 100% mark – this year sooner than in 2020, when dams hit full capacity in October. Prior to that, dams were last full in 2014.


Western Cape, South Africa (07 September 2021) – The total capacity of dams supplying the Cape Town metro increased by 0,50% in the last week, from 101.3%  the previous week to 101,8%. Daily water consumption for the same period decreased to 696 million litres per day, compared to 738 million litres the week before. At the same time last year, dam levels were at 95,4%.

Some residents have asked how the City calculates a capacity of more than 100% and what happens with the excess water once dams have reached their full capacity. In terms of the excess percentages, the water depth flowing over the spillways translates to a volume of water temporarily stored behind the dam wall. A percentage exceeding 100% indicates that the dam is overflowing. Water that overflows goes down the rivers and is important for the ecological functioning of these watercourses.

While the robust dam levels are certainly something to be thankful for, we cannot afford to become complacent in our ambitions for water security and reducing reliance on surface (rainfall) water. The City continues to pursue its New Water Programme, and the commitments laid out in its Water Strategy, come rain or shine.

Cape Town is located in a water-scarce region, and our climate – particularly in Southern Africa – is proving increasingly unpredictable. The City is enhancing its management of the existing water supply, and it accepts the responsibility that it needs to step beyond its municipal mandate in terms of bulk water supply provision, as we did during the recent drought. In the face of rising temperatures globally, and erratic rainfall patterns, the City is pushing ahead with realising the objectives laid out in the Water Strategy of building resilience and water security for this generation and generations to come.

As dams are now full, some residents might be questioning whether water tariffs can be lowered to pre-drought levels, when all households, both indigent and non-indigent, were provided six Kilolitres of water per month, at no charge.

Prior to the drought, water purchases by those using high volumes of water allowed for the first six Kilolitres of water to be subsidised. Water usage habits have remained significantly lower than they were before the drought, and there are very few customers today who purchase the volumes of municipal water that enabled a subsidised allocation. The changing circumstances placed the sustainability of the previous tariff model at risk and left the water and sanitation service vulnerable to climate shocks. It was necessary to build resilience into the tariff model while adjusting the price of water to a more cost-reflective level. For this reason, the City introduced the tariff model comprising a fixed component and a (variable) usage component. This provides a degree of security to a sustained operation of the vast water and sanitation service.

It is important to keep in mind that the amount of water in our dams, which we share with several other municipalities, does not directly influence the cost of delivering the overall water and sanitation service.

The City appreciates that tariff structures can be tricky to understand, so would like to highlight the key points below.

  • The cost of providing the service remains largely the same regardless of how much or how little water flows through the system. Put more simply, the transporting, quality and reliability of the water supply must remain at the same standard, whether people are using a lot of water, or a little.
  • The water tariff is made up of a fixed part and a usage part. It is a model used by numerous municipalities all over the country and helps provide a reliable water service.
  • The fixed/variable tariff model helps stabilise revenue streams so that variations in usage patterns, as with a drought response, service operations and maintenance programmes are not negatively impacted.
  • If the fixed portion of the tariff model was removed, the usage part of the tariff will need to be increased significantly to compensate.
  • The service includes the treatment and scientific quality testing of water; operation, repairs and maintenance of infrastructure; and transport and treatment of wastewater.
  • The amount to be recovered to fund the service however depends on how much water is used by the customers.
  • Many Cape Town residents have sustained the water-wise efficiencies developed during the drought, and as such, water costs more per kilolitre on average compared to the period before the drought.
  • Post-drought tariffs also need to absorb the cost of the New Water Programme (NWP), which aims to produce approximately 300 million litres (Ml) per day through groundwater abstraction, desalination and water re-use by 2030.
  • The NWP aims to build resilience to the effects of climate change, and future droughts, ensuring a safe, reliable water supply for generations to come.
  • The City does not budget for a profit from the sale of water and seeks to keep costs of service delivery as low as possible.
  • Residents who are registered as indigent do not pay the fixed part of the water tariff and receive a free allocation of water monthly.
  • Cape Town’s registered indigent residents are provided the largest water and sanitation allocation, at no charge to the household, in the country.
  • The City will continue to support registered indigent residents – comprising approximately 40% of households in the metro – with a monthly water allocation at no charge.

More information about the City’s Water Strategy can be found here: http://www.capetown.gov.za/general/cape-town-water-strategy

Sources: City of Cape Town 
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