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Cape Town’s Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson says the threat of Day Zero has receded, but he can't ease water rationing without the support of the National Government.

“At this early stage of the winter season, our dam levels are already in a much stronger position than we were at the end of winter last year, ” said Neilson.

“Provided that adequate water restrictions are maintained, the City is confident that there will be no prospect of reaching Day Zero in 2019.

“While we hope to reduce the current water restrictions in the near future, and the tariffs associated with them, this decision is dependent on National Government relaxing restrictions on releases from the water supply system.”

He added that the levels of the dams supplying water to Cape Town have been rising consistently and significantly over the past six weeks. 

“As at today, total dam storage capacity is at just over 43%, and we still have more than two months of expected winter rainfall ahead of us. Over the last few months, our collective water usage has been around 520 million litres per day.

“This may be compared to the situation at the end of winter last year, when dam levels were at 38% and consumption was over 600 million litres a day.

“Having analysed this new data, we are now in a position to state that not only have we managed to avoid Day Zero this year, but we will also safely get through summer in 2019. This is due to the amount of water already in the dams, our intense water demand management programmes, our unrelenting communication, awareness and the behavioural change it has affected over the past two years, as well as the continued support and sacrifice of Team Cape Town.”

Neilson emphasised that the National Government must make the key decision on when to reduce water rationing and to cut tariffs.

“I know that it has been very difficult for both private residents and businesses to operate under the current stringent restrictions and that many sacrifices have been made by millions of residents. We hope that continued rains will enable a progressive reduction in the stress felt by all.

“While we hope to reduce the current restrictions in the near future, and the tariffs associated with them, that decision is dependent on National Government relaxing restrictions on releases from the water supply system. If the National Department of Water and Sanitation agrees to relax restrictions, we expect to be in a position to proceed with a stepped reduction of water restrictions and the associated tariffs.”
 
“Until then, let us all please keep up the good work and keep saving water for a little while longer. We have to ensure that we make a permanent change to our approach to water usage.”
 
Neilson said he has requested a meeting with the National Minister of Water and Sanitation, Gugile Nkwinti, “to discuss this and other matters pertaining to our future water resilience as a matter of urgency.
 
“Now that we have navigated our way through the immediate drought crisis, it is necessary that we review our water supply strategy and augmentation plans to ensure that what was devised in a period of crisis is appropriate for longer-term sustainability and resilience. We are in the process of reassessing our New Water Programme; in particular, our future water mix and the role of permanent desalination in the supply mix.

“We need to think very carefully about our long-term capital programme, particularly regarding permanent desalination, groundwater and water reuse and how this will impact on our budget and our water tariffs.
 
“In partnership with the custodian of water resources, the National Department of Water and Sanitation, we also need to address critical issues such as resource allocation and inter-basin transfers to ensure the sustainability of our water resources. Many operational challenges and deficiencies came to light during this drought. 
 
“The City and National Government will need to sit down and work through these issues thoroughly to ensure that future drought management is effective and has minimal impact on economic activity and public well-being.
 
“At the same time, we need to ensure that our focus on behavioural change and attitudes towards water and demand management does not let up. As demand for water grows, it is not only diversification of supply that is required to address future risk, but also a sustained campaign to entrench the behaviour changes we have seen over the past months.
 
“Until such time as we are able to reassess our situation, let us all, therefore, continue to implement these changes and keep saving water.”

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