Current Context on the Water Crisis in the Western Cape
- While the initial rains being experienced have been promising, it is not yet possible to predict whether the 2018 winter rainfall will be above average, average or below average.
- The average dam levels for the Western Cape is 18.97% (as at 28 May 2018 - see below for weekly updates).
- Dam levels are slightly higher than this time last year in some catchments, while in others levels are lower.
- Current drought measures, including the Level 6B water restrictions in the City of Cape Town, remain for the foreseeable future.
- Water consumption trends in Cape Town are around 525 mega litres per day (MLD) (as at 21 May 2018), this is moving in the right direction but is still above the required 450 MLD.
- 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.
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.
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:
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 across the province are significantly lower than at the same time in 2017.
Below is a breakdown of the state of the Western Cape dams as on 18 June 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. As shown above, dam levels are not significantly more than this time last year (2017) and as a result 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.
The City of Cape Town has released its Water Outlook for 2018, which is regularly updated as conditions change.
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.
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.
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.
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.