The total capacity of dams supplying the Cape Town metro decreased by 0,30% in the last week, from 99,8% the previous week to 99,5%. Daily water consumption for the same period increased to 781 million litres per day, compared to 750 million litres the week before. At the same time last year, dam levels were at 100,7%.
Dams supplying Cape Town have for the second year running crested the 100% mark – this year sooner than in 2020, when dams hit full capacity in October. Prior to that, dams were last full in 2014.
Some residents have asked how the City calculates a capacity of more than 100%, and what happens with the excess water once dams have reached their full capacity. In terms of the excess percentages, the water depth flowing over the spillways translates to a volume of water temporarily stored behind the dam wall. A percentage exceeding 100% indicates that the dam is overflowing. Water that overflows goes down the rivers and is important for the ecological functioning of these water courses.
While the healthy dam levels are certainly something to be thankful for, we cannot afford to become complacent in our ambitions for water security and reducing reliance on surface (rainfall) water. Cape Town is located in a water-scarce region, and our climate – particularly in Southern Africa – is proving increasingly unpredictable.
The City is enhancing its management of existing water supply, and it accepts the responsibility that it needs to step beyond its municipal mandate in terms of bulk water supply provision, as we did during the recent drought. In the face of rising temperatures globally, and erratic rainfall patterns, the City is pushing ahead with its New Water Programme, and realising the objectives and commitments laid out in the Water Strategy of building resilience and water security for this generation and future generations, come rain or shine.
As dams are now full, some residents might be questioning whether water tariffs can be lowered to pre-drought levels, when all households, both indigent and non-indigent, were provided six Kilolitres of water per month, at no charge.
Prior to the drought, water purchases by those using high volumes of water allowed for the first six Kilolitres of water to be subsidised. Water usage habits have remained significantly lower than they were before the drought, and there are very few customers today who purchase the volumes of municipal water that enabled a subsidised allocation. The changing circumstances placed the sustainability of the previous tariff model at risk and left the water and sanitation service vulnerable to climate shocks. It was necessary to build resilience into the tariff model, while adjusting the price of water to a more cost-reflective level. For this reason, the City introduced the tariff model comprising a fixed component, and a (variable) usage component. This provides a degree of security to a sustained operation of the vast water and sanitation service.
It is important to keep in mind that the amount of water in our dams, which we share with several other municipalities, does not directly influence the cost of delivering the overall water and sanitation service.
The City would like to highlight the key points below, to further explain how water and sanitation tariffs are structured and calculated.
1.The cost of providing the service remains largely the same regardless of how much or how little water flows through the system. Put more simply, the transporting, quality and reliability of the water supply must remain at the same standard, whether people are using a lot of water, or a little.
2.The water tariff is made up of a fixed part and a usage part. It is a model used by numerous municipalities all over the country and helps provide a reliable water service.
3.The fixed/variable tariff model helps stabilise revenue streams so that variations in usage patterns, as with a drought response, service operations and maintenance programmes are not negatively impacted. The fixed/variable tariff model helps stabilise revenue streams so that variations in usage patterns, as with a drought response, service operations and maintenance programmes are not negatively impacted.
4.If the fixed portion of the tariff model was removed, the usage part of the tariff will need to be increased significantly to compensate.
5.The service includes the treatment and scientific quality testing of water; operation, repairs and maintenance of infrastructure; and transport and treatment of wastewater.
6.The amount to be recovered to fund the service however depends on how much water is used by the customers.
7.Many Cape Town residents have sustained the water-wise efficiencies developed during the drought, and as such, water costs more per kilolitre on average compared to the period before the drought. However, water tariffs are currently far lower than during the drought, with the 2021/22 Water-wise no restriction tariff a full 45% lower than the Level 6B tariff of 2018.
8.City water (including sanitation services) costs approximately 4c per litre* compared to around R10 per litre for shop-bought bottled water (*based on first 10 500 litres used and 15mm water meter).
9.Post-drought tariffs also need to absorb the cost of the New Water Programme (NWP), which aims to produce approximately 300 million litres (Ml) per day through groundwater abstraction, desalination and water re-use by 2030.
10.The NWP aims to build resilience to the effects of climate change, and future droughts, ensuring a safe, reliable water supply for generations to come.
11.The City has the lowest tariff increases for services of all metros in 2021/22.
12.The City does not budget for a profit from the sale of water and seeks to keep costs of service delivery as low as possible.
13.Residents who are registered as indigent do not pay the fixed part of the water tariff and receive a free allocation of water monthly.
14.Cape Town’s registered indigent residents are provided the largest water and sanitation allocation, at no charge to the household, in the country.
15.The City will continue to support registered indigent residents – comprising approximately 40% of households in the metro – with a monthly water allocation at no charge.