Current Context on the Water Crisis in the Western Cape

  • The Cape Town system of dams is currently sitting at 69.68% capacity and for the Western Cape State of Dams at 59.63% (as at 03 December 2018 - see below for weekly updates). Both systems saw a slight decrease in capacity over the past week.
  • A breakdown of the weekly water usage from the WCWSS shows that agriculture accounts for 45% of the weekly water usage, while the City of Cape Town accounts for 49%. The remaining 6% is used by smaller municipalities.
  • Our biggest dam in the Western Cape, the Theewaterskloof dam remains the lowest of the Cape Town dams at 54.43% capacity.
  • All the catchment areas showed a marginal decease in dam levels over the past week.
  • The Gouritz River Catchment level remains the lowest of the catchment areas with only 19.01%, while both the Olifants/De Doorn River and Berg River Catchment areas remain the fullest capacity levels of the catchment areas, at 83.19% and 87.55% respectively.
  • Water restrictions and the associated tariffs in the City of Cape Town have been lowered from level 5 to level 3 from 1 December 2018.
  • The water usage limits in the City of Cape Town will be increased from 70 to 105 litres per person per day and the daily collective consumption limit will increase from 500 MLD to 650MLD. Despite the increase in consumptive limit, it is hoped that water conservation efforts remain in place.
  • Water consumption in Cape Town for the past week stands at 563 megaliters per day (MLD) (as of 03 December 2018) - 87 megaliters below the 650 MLD consumptive water-use limit.
  • Businesses need to actively work towards a ‘new normal’ and the information provided in the following sections can assist.

The information provided as part of the Water section of this website is divided into four sections to ensure businesses are as informed as possible to make the necessary decisions during this water stressed time. For information on:


The Western Cape is a water scarce region, with climate models projecting drier conditions in the future. There are no readily available surface water supply augmentation options beyond existing dams and rivers. The region is also in the midst of its most severe recorded drought. Annual rainfall has been decreasing over the last few years as is indicated below. This graph is representative of the year-on-year reduction in many parts of the Western Cape and it is projected that rainfall in the Western Cape is likely to decrease by 30% by 2050.


Images above are courtesy of CSAG.

Climate change conditions are also likely to cause a shift in the seasonality and location of rainfall. Our province is already experiencing more frequent and severe weather events such as flooding, increased wind speeds, increased temperatures, less cold frost days, and more fires. These altered climatic conditions impact water infrastructure by disenabling effective infiltration to recharge groundwater, damaging infrastructure, increasing evaporation, and reducing the quality of the water resources.

Water is critical for the daily operational activities of all businesses across the province, meaning they have to rethink the way they use water and reduce their consumption. The Western Cape Government, together with key partners such as GreenCape, the City of Cape Town, Wesgro, business associations and others, is working closely with businesses to improve their water resilience and that of the Western Cape economy. This work is co-ordinated under the Economic Security Workstream, which falls under the activated provincial disaster centre.

Economic Security Workstream - a response to the current drought crisis

As part of the Western Cape Government's response to the current drought a number of workstreams have been established to address various aspects of the drought and support various sections of society. 

The Economic Security Workstream comprises of partners from the Western Cape Government, City of Cape Town, municipalities, GreenCape, Wesgro, business associations and other key stakeholders.

The goal of the workstream is to Reduce business risk and build the water sector to support water resilience in the Western Cape economy, with the following objectives:

Objectives of Economic Security Workstream

The strategies of the workstream to meet the above objectives are:

  • Host & participate in engagements with businesses & support dialogues between businesses & local municipalities
  • Support, co-ordinate & distribute drought communications materials to businesses
  • Provide strategic & technical support to businesses
  • Provide business support to develop the water sector
  • Provide information / process support to businesses having to downscale or close down
  • Provide contingency planning support to businesses to help them prepare for day zero
  • Collate and analyse information on business interventions, water savings and/ or own supplies and economic impacts

In response to business concerns around the water crisis, a Western Cape Business Support FAQ has been developed to address some of the issues that have been raised. 

Overview of the Drought Status 

Dam Levels in the Western Cape

Below is a breakdown of the state of the Western Cape dams as on 03 December 2018.

WC Dam levels 03 December 2018

Normally winter rainfall starts around the Easter Weekend but in 2017 it started in June. The province experienced below normal rainfall from May to September (+-50% of Long Term average) which has had a significant impact on water levels in our major storage dams. Although some dam levels are increasing, the Western Cape is still at risk and therefore the South African Weather Service (SAWS) has recommended that drought measures continue for the foreseeable future. As such businesses need to plan for a new normal. 

For access to the interactive Dam Level Model, click here to download. For the Dam Level Model User Guide, click here.

The City of Cape Town has released its Water Outlook for 2018, which is regularly updated as conditions change. 

For the most updated Water Dashboard showing dam levels for the City of Cape Town click here. All the drought related updates from the City of Cape Town can be found here

While many businesses are based in Cape Town, operations and supply chains may be located in other parts of the Western Cape. Thus it is critical for businesses to be aware of the water situation across the province.

Western Cape Catchment Areas.jpg

The image above shows the catchment area that the City draws on for water supply - the Berg-Olifants Water Management Area. Water storage levels are critically low in all catchments as shown below.

Berg-Olifants WMA Storage Levels.png

This situation will be further impacted by climate change which, in the Western Cape, is projected to lead to:

  • Decrease in average rainfall and a change in its seasonality and intensity 
  • Increased temperatures
  • Increased wind speeds
  • Increased fires

All of these will have impacts on the availability of water. 

Western Cape Municipal Drought Status

Below you can find the latest Western Cape Municipal Drought Status issued by the Disaster Management division of the Department of Local Government. 

Note: it is focused on hydrological (urban based) drought and does not include agricultural drought. This map will be updated as and when applicable.

To find out current water restriction for the Western Cape Municipalities and dam levels click here.