Frequently Asked Questions About Water Restrictions | Western Cape Government

Frequently Asked Questions About Water Restrictions

These questions and answers have been prepared to help you comply with the new Cape Town water restrictions that are effective from 1 January 2005.
1. I want to clean my roof using a high-pressure hose but I am not using a contractor. Do I need an exemption and will I get it?

You need to apply for an exemption. Conditional approval may be granted. Please note that the exemption will be for a defined period.

2. Do I need a sign if I am using bath water to water my lawn?

A sign saying that you are using non-potable is recommended.

3. Can I use bath water to water my garden at any time or only on watering days?

You can use bath water to water your garden any time. You should understand the consumption cost implication – the more water you use, the more expensive it is.

4. I have a large property. Can I use permissible time to fill buckets or a tank and then water until it is used up or can I get an exemption to water for longer?

You cannot fill containers and use them later to water the garden. However, single residential properties larger than 1000 square meters can apply for exemption. You should understand the consumption cost implication – the more water you use, the more expensive it is.

5. Can I wash my car with a hose on my lawn while watering?


6. I will be away and have set my automatic sprinklers to come on for 20 minutes on the correct day. Can I get an exemption for this?

Yes, you can apply for exemption but proof will be required showing that you are going away (for example your travel itinerary).

7. I want to hire a water slide. Do I need an exemption or does the person hiring it out to me need one?

The business owner must obtain an exemption for the water slide. A copy of the exemption must be kept on the site using the equipment.

8. Can I appeal if my request for exemption is turned down?

You may appeal to the Director of Water Services, PO Box 16548, Vlaeberg, 8000.

9. Can historical / museum gardens be exempt from the water restrictions?

Yes. Exemption application must be submitted.

10. May paved areas in the city centre be washed with hosepipes?

No, however buckets may be used.

11. When will the revised restrictions be started and what level of restrictions will be enforced?

On 01 January 2005 revised level 2 restrictions will be enforced. For details of the revised restrictions see the notice in newspapers on 30 December and the flyer in your post or click here.

12. What can't I do with my watering?

For details of the revised restrictions see the notice in newspapers on 30 December and the flyer in your post or click here.

13. What happens if it rains heavily after 1 January and the dams fill up?

The mayor is mandated to change the level of restriction.

14. Where do I send my exemption application?

Street and postal addresses, as well as fax details for the various district offices are published in the notice.

15. Will exemption be granted to people who cannot stand with a hosepipe due to disability or old age, allowing them to use their micro jet system or sprinklers?

Yes, older or disabled people can apply for an exemption. Consideration will be given on merit.

16. Can property owners who are at present residing overseas get exemptions for the use of automatic timers for properties in complexes?

Yes, overseas property owners can get exemptions. An exemption application must be submitted.

17. Are irrigation drip systems, which have automatic switch off conductors, classified as irrigation systems?

Not for the purposes of these restrictions. Drip irrigation is now permitted for 20 minutes once a week on the designated day.

18. What amount of water is used by the city each month?

For the 2003/2004 year, the City of Cape Town used the following (megalitres per month)

  • Jul 03 – 21770,
  • Aug 03 – 20417,
  • Sep 03 – 21399,
  • Oct 03 – 25706,
  • Nov 03 – 30737,
  • Dec 03 – 20564,
  • Jan 04 – 32470,
  • Feb 04 – 31749,
  • Mar 04 – 30609,
  • Apr 04 – 23819,
  • Jun 04 – 21658 (estimate)

This totals 318,828 (estimate for the year). These figures also include the bulk water which the City of Cape Town supplies to the Drakenstein and Stellenbosch areas.

19. How do you calculate a household's average water consumption for the purposes of working out what they should be saving?

The principle behind these restrictions and tariff increases is one of self-management and control. It is up to the individual consumer to save and keep his or her water account down to acceptable levels. Those that do not save water will thus have to accept the cost implications.

20. How effective were water restrictions in 2002? How did consumption patterns change in that period of restrictions?

The water restrictions imposed in 2000 were at a level of 10% and the actual saving amounted to 15.5% most of which was sustained. This indicates that a large proportion of consumers changed their habits permanently and installed alternatives, such as boreholes, grey-water irrigation systems and in some cases laid paving to minimize irrigation requirements.

21. How many people were either cautioned or prosecuted for breaking the restriction regulations last time, and what penalties were imposed?

A small number of consumers were cautioned, but none were prosecuted. There was generally very good co-operation from the community, as evidenced by the very good water savings achieved.

22. What penalties are proposed this time?

Spot fines (admission of guilt) of R1,000 may be issued by the City of Cape Town in terms of the Water Restrictions Bylaw. Repeat offenders could be summonsed and be liable for prosecution resulting in a fine of up to R10,000 or imprisonment up to 6 months or both.

23. Experience and common sense show us that rich people, who are also the heaviest water users, will be able to afford the punitive water tariffs and therefore will have no incentive to save water. Poor people, on the other hand, will not be able to afford them, so are likely to bear the brunt of the higher prices or having to cope with less water. What steps area being taken to address this?

The free water remains free and is set at 6 kilolitres per domestic household. The lower tariff steps have low increases, while the higher steps are subjected to increasing percentage increases, thus assisting the poor and those who save water.

24. A water consumption reduction of 20% implies a reduction of 20% in the City’s income from sewerage charges. How will this effect the council's operations?

Only 50% of the Sewerage costs are recovered through volumetric charges. The fixed charge is, therefore, not subject to any increase. The monetary reduction in the volumetric component amounts to R19m, R49m and R92m respectively for 10, 20 and 30% levels of restrictions. The proposed increases are designed to only recover the loss in income due to the reduction in billed consumption.

25. If there’s a significant decrease in the flow of water through the city’s sewerage system, will this affect its operation? Are there any health risks associated with this?

Most of the water saving comes from a reduction in irrigation or other “luxury” uses. It is therefore not expected that there will be any serious affect on the sewerage system. This will however be monitored.

26. A letter writer to the Cape Argus pointed out that asking a household to reduce consumption by a set percentage across the board unduly disadvantages those who are already conserving water. How do you respond to this? And how do you plan to distinguish between profligate consumers and those who are already doing their best to save water?

The set percentage is merely a target for the City. Those that are already saving water are benefiting from the sliding scale – the less you use the less you pay. This will continue to be the case as mentioned above; the increases are minimal at the lower tariff steps and higher at the higher tariff steps. Those that save water may not have to pay any more on their water account.

27. How will you make allowances for large households? It would be unreasonable to expect someone living alone in a large house to be able to save as much water as a family of six living in the house next door.

While there is no simple or inexpensive way to monitor the number of people in a household for every connection, the free water does allow for a free basic allocation of 25 litres per day for 8 people. This is the basis for the 6 kilolitres for each household.

28. Will restrictions affect municipal swimming pools?

Swimming pools are public amenities and will thus be excluded, as are private pools.

29. What special arrangements (if any) are being made to ensure the maintenance of the City’s golf courses? Have you quantified the amount of water used to water golf courses?

Almost all golf courses in the City are irrigated using recycled water from Wastewater Treatment Plants, boreholes or their own resources. Furthermore, only golf greens are excluded from restriction provisions.

30. Will you continue to use municipal trucks to spray road surfaces during the period of restrictions? If so, why? And how much water do they consume?

Municipal street cleaning generally uses non-potable water.

31. What steps is the council, as a water consumer itself, taking to ensure it reduces its usage?

Council has already removed all automatic flushing urinals in its buildings. The council directorates are also expected and bound to comply with the restrictions. This applies primarily to the Parks directorate for which a special strategy is being developed to ensure compliance.

32. What steps are you expecting provincial consumers – such as schools and hospitals – to take to reduce consumption?

The legal Water Restriction notice applies to all users of potable drinking water i.e. a saving of 20 % is encouraged. Council has embarked on a partnership with schools to help reduce consumption. 600 schools have been helped so far and all schools will be assisted.

33. Please give us the background information you use when setting the benchmark dam levels, which govern the severity of water restrictions. How, for example, did you arrive at an average dam level of 49% - 63% for the 20% consumption reduction?

A comprehensive statistical analysis, which included 400 possible inflow scenarios into the dams in terms of rainfall and runoff, was carried out to determine the probability of the major dams filling. One of the possible inflow scenarios is a drought exceeding the worst drought in history in the Western Cape. The analysis also includes projected long-term water demands from both urban and agricultural users. Based on this analysis the levels in the dams are managed through the curtailment of water demand in order to ensure that the dams will not empty and will recover over time. A progressively severe water restriction may have to be imposed should the drought continue or should less rainfall occur in the future years, The modeling carried out this year showed that a 20% level of water restriction would have to be imposed this coming summer in order to manage the recovery of the dams over the next 2 to 3 years.

34. An Argus reader suggested that a stepped penalty be introduced, so that those who consume less that 25kl per month, for example, are not required to reduce their usage at all.

Consumers of 25-50kl per month can be required to reduce their usage by 5%, 50-100kl per month by 10% and 100-200kl by 15% and so on. Your reaction?

This is the basic principle applied in the proposed tariff increase Those using less water are penalized less, and those using more water are penalized more.

35. What appeal process will be installed to allow consumers who believe they have been unfairly penalized to seek redress?

The process for the applications for exemptions is contained in the final restrictions notice.

Refer also to Item 8 above.

36. How can consumers join in the public participation process around the proposed restrictions?

Objections to the restrictions were invited in the press notice of 26 August 2004. The objection period closed on 9 September 2004. Any suggestions for saving water or other comment may be submitted via the exemption process.

37. How will you police restrictions?

Spot fines (admission of guilt) of R1000 may be issued by the City of Cape Town in terms of the Water Restrictions Bylaw. Repeat offenders could be summonsed and be liable for prosecution resulting in a fine of up to R10 000 or imprisonment up to 6 months or both. Water Services have staff with law enforcement status i.e. Water Inspectors, Water Pollution officers and Water and Sanitation Officers who will be able to monitor compliance with the final notice and issue spot fines. Other law enforcement offices will also be in a position to enforce restrictions, as for any other bylaw.

The public are normally our most vigilant enforcers and they may report offenders on 086 0103 054.

38. How are homeowners who use borehole water for their gardens expected to respond to the water restrictions?

The restriction notice indicates that the restrictions shall not apply where other sources of non-potable water are used and a notice indicating the source is erected in a position clearly visible from a public thoroughfare.

39. Sectional title owners who save water will still be penalized if other owners in their block continue to be wasteful or profligate. How will you address this?

The planned media campaign is aimed at ensuring that everyone co-operates and contributes to the targeted savings in water consumptions. It is therefore hoped that fellow water saving residents will bring the appropriate pressure to bear on those who may not be so inclined.

40. Who are the 10 biggest water consumers in the City of Cape Town?

Consumption figures for individual consumers are considered confidential and cannot be released to the public. However, systems are in place to monitor bulk consumers.

41. What amount of water is estimated to be lost through leaking mains in the City of Cape town in the average month?

The amount of water lost through leakage is unknown. Unaccounted for water, which is the difference between the bulk water supplied and water billed to consumers, amounts proximately to 17%. This relates to leakages; burst main losses, fire fighting and a few un-metered properties. While it is the City’s intention to bring this down to a world benchmark of 15% it does compare favourably with the average in the country of about 30%. The figure of 17% for unaccounted water also compares favourably with the benchmark for international best practice of 15% held by the Yarra Utility of Australia.

42. How many water mains bursts in the past 12 months?

There are approximately 24,000 bursts and leaks that are reported and repaired each year.

43. Can I get an exemption to set my irrigation system for 20 minutes within the allocated time while I am away on holiday?

Yes, you must apply for exemption and provide proof that you will be away (for example by showing your travel itinerary). Drip irrigation systems are permissible without exemption application for 20 minutes on designated day.

44. Must landscapers (who are contracted to install sprinklers and plant and maintain new trees and plant in new developments) apply for exemption to maintain new plants via the sprinkler systems, which they have installed?

Landscapers can apply for exemption. Time exemptions may be granted.

Landscapers are also encouraged to plant water wise gardens. Drought resistant lawns may be irrigated with sprinklers during establishment.

Drip irrigation systems are permissible without exemption application for 20 minutes on designated day.

45. What about school sports fields and minor sports stadiums which are too large to water by hand with the allocated times?

These facilities can apply for exemption. If the exemption is granted, sprinklers will be permitted only if a reduction in potable irrigation of 50% compared to last summer is achieved.

46. Can large housing complexes, flats and retirement villages, which are presently watered by sprinkler systems and are too large to water by, hand in an hour, apply for exemption?

The body corporate can apply for exemption and must submit a strategy with the application. No sprinklers will be allowed but drip irrigation systems are allowed, even without exemption.

47. Can owners of boats rinse and flush their motors after fishing?

Flushing of motors is permitted.

48. Can someone who uses borehole water to water grass and plants (therefore saving water) use their hosepipe to wash their car in the allocated times?

No, a hosepipe connected to potable water cannot be used to wash cars. However a hose connected to borehole water is permitted.

49. Can the owner of a very large residential property who cannot water the whole property using a hosepipe in the allocated time, get an exemption?

Yes, you can apply for an exemption. There is a formula for determining whether the exemption will be granted.

50. If the property owner is away for an extended period, and has arranged for labour to water on Wednesdays, can they get an exemption to allow for this?

Yes, you can apply for exemption.

51. Would pensioners receive a special exemption to use hand held hose instead of buckets in the event of level 3 coming into effect?

Older people would be able to apply for exemption in these circumstances. The application would be assessed on merit.

52. How should informal traders e.g. car washers, fishmongers approach the water restrictions?

They may not use a hose.

53. Are notices in three languages being provided at e.g. cash offices, libraries, clinics etc?

Notices are being displayed at subcouncil offices as per notice of 30 December.

54. How are major sports stadia defined for the purposes of water restrictions?

The definition has been determined by the Sport and Recreation strategy.

55. Can you water gardens on weekends?

No. The notice clearly states that there should be no watering on any other day except Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

56. Is washing of vehicles with a hose is prohibited even on lawn?

Yes. You may not water your vehicle with a hose pipe attached to potable water.

57. Are car valet services compelled to use trigger nozzles on hoses?

This is encouraged.

 58. Can I fill and top up my swimming pool?

Yes, this is not restricted.

59. With whom do you register your borehole? Do you pay for registration and the borehole sign?

You register with your district office. The registration and signage are free.

60. Who do you fine if council is contravening the water restrictions?


61. Is it illegal to wash down the forecourt of a petrol station?


62. If a person has a visible leak on their property and is not in a position to fix it, what can be done? Does Council have a system in place whereby a plumber will be sent to repair the leak and bill the tenant?

No, it is the owner’s responsibility.
The content on this page was last updated on 4 September 2013