Cape Town’s new water restrictions

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the word on the bone-dry street is that South Africa has very little water. This is allegedly due to several factors: poorly maintained infrastructure, a lack of adequate rainfall during the winter just past, and overuse by ignorant and/or uncaring consumers. And, because sorting out infrastructure is – pardon the pun – no quick fix, and the rain dancing seems to have failed to appease whatever sky fairy it was directed at, guess who is going to have to bear the brunt of the plans to save water?

Spoiler Alert: It are you and I.

Cape Town is permanently on Level 1 water restrictions because there’s not enough wet stuff around to be wasteful at any time, but given that the dams are just 63% full (vs 90+% for the last three years at this time), the Mayoral Committee recently decided that puny Level 1 restrictions simply weren’t doing enough to adequately conserve water, and has suggested that more draconian Level 2 restrictions be brought in, and that looks set to happen on the 1st January.

Here’s a list of what those new Level 2 restrictions entail:

Restrictions applicable to all customers

  • Watering (with drinking water from municipal supply) of gardens, flower beds, sports fields, parks, lawns and other open spaces allowed only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for a maximum of one hour per premises either before 09:00 or after 18:00. This includes watering with buckets or automated sprinkler systems.
  • Watering via boreholes and or well points falls under the same restrictions as above. Residential users are allowed only one hour a day per premises whereas businesses, industries and City or Government departments are allowed two hours a day per premises.
  • No watering will be permitted within 24 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Customers making use of boreholes or other sources are not exempt from this.
  • Special users (e.g. golf courses and schools) can apply to the Director: Water & Sanitation for exemption from any of the above restrictions by emailing
  • When watering with alternative water resources like harvested rain water, re-used grey water or treated effluent water, you are encouraged to comply with the above restrictions.
  • If other water sources (e.g. boreholes, well points, grey water re-use, treated effluent water) are utilised, all customers should ensure that they display signage to this effect that is clearly visible from a public thoroughfare.
  • No automatic top-up systems are allowed for swimming pools. It is recommended that all swimming pools be covered by a pool cover to avoid evaporation when not in use.
  • Ornamental water fountains and water features are to be operated only by recycling the water.
Restrictions applicable to residential customers
  • Washing of vehicles is only allowed with hosepipes fitted with automatic self-closing devices, or with waterless products.
  • No washing or hosing down of hard-surfaced or paved areas with drinking water from a tap is allowed.
  • Residents are encouraged to replace all taps, showerheads and other plumbing components with water efficient parts or technologies.

Red emphasis by me. Points two and three may be of particular interest to our local schools, who – using borehole water – irrigate their fields during the day, come blazing sunshine, pouring rain or umshado wezinkawu. And there are several other quite significant rules there as well, I think you’ll note. Here’s a poster with all the info on.

However, as ever, the issues will be threefold.

Firstly, people won’t hear (or will claim not to have heard) about the restrictions and will plead ignorance. This happens every year with the road closures for the State Opening Of Parliament. Every year.
Secondly, those who do hear about the restrictions will ignore them anyway, because that’s what South Africans do – it’s obviously about other people, not them – and thirdly, that’s fine because there will be absolutely no enforcement anyway.

Oh dear.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Because those all too easy excuses won’t save you from the increased charges you’ll be paying. For an average domestic customer, the differences in price are as follows:

Fullscreen capture 2015-12-09 123413 PM.bmp

But, since this is a “revenue-neutral” plan, what will save you from the increased charges is if you cut your water consumption by 10% from its current level. And, if you follow the rules and the recommendations above, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

That said, as consumers we were told that if each of us were to lower our electricity usage by 10%, there would be no need for loadshedding. And that blatantly didn’t happen. For all the reasons given above, funnily enough.

So, I predict outrage from about mid-February, when the first billing cycle from the 1st January increases lands in the post and email inboxes of those poor people who “just didn’t know”, or just didn’t care. I’d like to think that my Capetonian readers won’t fall into either of those two categories. I’ve done my bit right here on at least one of them.
Why not share this post so that your friends join the water saving party too?

UPDATE: via @JacquesR here are some FAQs from the infamous 2005 drought, lending further detail to waterwise behaviour.

4 thoughts on “Cape Town’s new water restrictions

  1. I’m thanking the small mercies we’re a) not metered and b) it rains plenty here. Want me to arrange a shipment? Might cost you more than R85.09 for a kl though! Sending wet thoughts from Blighty. 😉

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