Dams show downward trend

The content levels of dams serving Cape Town are showing a worrying downward trend and experts warn that residents should take water saving seriously.

Residents should be saving water now. Hely-Hutchinson dam. Photo: J Hallward

Forecasters say winter rainfall will be lower than normal or average this year.

Peter Johnstone of UCT’s Climate Systems Analysis Group said dams were at their lowest levels in the past five years.

“It doesn’t look like there will be lots of rain; it will be normal and below normal until the end of July.

“If we don’t get full dams this year, next year we will have even (lower levels)… With very little rain forecast for this winter, it would appear likely that the situation would worsen next year,” Johnstone said.

This view was echoed by local water specialist Jeremy Taylor.

According to the city’s website, the six dams which feed the city are collectively 51.1 percent full. In 2008, the corresponding figure was 63.4 percent, 61.8 percent in 2009, 75.3 percent in 2010 and 51.5 percent last year.

Johnstone said he didn’t want to cause alarm, but cautioned that residents should be saving water.

Taylor said there would be an early start to summer this year and a late start to winter in 2013.

“Restrictions should start now and the city should concentrate on demand-side management and hike tariffs,” he said.

Anton Sparks, a consultant to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry and the city, said that if dam levels continued to drop, there would have to be an intervention.

Peter Flower, city bulkwater manager, said water was a scarce commodity throughout the province, but the authorities would only know at the end of October, after the rainy season, what the situation would be.

Dam levels were normally lowest at this time of year and, even though average to below-average rainfall was expected this winter, Capetonians could manage by keeping consumption down, Flower added.

– Cape Argus

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