Mayor declares disaster zone

Mayor Patricia De Lille has declared the city a disaster zone as dam levels currently stand well below 30 percent.

Ms De Lille said last week that she would write to Anton Bredell, MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, to ask that the city be declared a proactive disaster – but she has since used a “mayoral decree” to do that.

As of Monday March 6, dam levels were at 31.5 percent which is 1.6 percent down from last week.

With the last 10 percent of a dam’s water mostly not being usable, dam levels are effectively at approximately 21.5 percent.

Ms De Lille said the city’s daily collective water consumption had broken through the 800 million litre barrier for the first time to 783 million litres.

At the current draw-down rate of the dams, Cape Town has about 113 days of usable water left.

The mayor has declared a local disaster in terms of Section 55 of the Disaster Management Act, which allows the City to invoke emergency procurement procedures. This declaration is valid for three months but can be extended on a month-to-month basis by notice in the Government Gazette.

But, said Ms De Lille, “This declaration is not an excuse for our residents not to carry on reducing consumption.”

However Rashid Khan, provincial head of the Department of Water and Sanitation, believes the mayor’s move is premature.

Speaking at a media briefing on Wednesday March 1 at the department’s regional offices in Bellville, Mr Khan said it was too early to have the city declared a disaster area, as there was still time to turn the situation around.

“It is with this realisation that a further attempt needs to be instituted to provide greater comfort which can be in the form of alternative water sources,” he said.

The department will do a water audit on municipalities this month to check if they are complying with the water restrictions.

It has also imposed an additional 10 percent water restriction on the agricultural sector, which will remain in place until the dams fill up to 85 percent of their capacity.

The City has outlined several long-term plans be considered to protect the region’s water supply:

* The Voelvlei augmentation scheme: a R274 million project to pump excess winter water from the Berg River into Voelvlei Dam that would yield about 60 million litres a day and be implemented by the national Department of Water and Sanitation.

* Extraction from the Table Mountain group aquifer would yield 50 to 100 million litres a day.

* Desalination would yield an average of 450 million litres a day. Capital outlay would be R15 billion with R1.2 billion in operating costs.

* Residents can email the City at water.restrictions@capetown.gov.za for queries or to report contraventions or SMS 31373. Visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater for more information