The City of Cape Town launched its new water strategy in February to mitigate drought effects. The lessons learnt from the ongoing drought and the near catastrophic events two years ago were used as the basis for a long-term plan. It includes, among others, a greater mix of water use and less reliance on surface water.

The City of Cape Town has been making use of rain and dam catchments for the last century, but the crisis that threatened to make Cape Town the first city in the world to run out of water, has shifted its thinking on water usage.

Citizens came to the party and reduced consumption by nearly 60%.

The City says water supply and use will never again be what it was before the drought.

The City’s Xanthea Limberg says the strategy aims to guide Cape Town to becoming a water resilient city by 2030.

“It aims to guide Cape Town to becoming a water resilient city by 2030 and achieve a water-sensitive city status by 2040. A water-sensitive city is one that is resilient, livable, productive and sustainable. In a water-sensitive city, we interact with urban water cycle in ways that provide water security through efficient use of diverse available resources, enhance and protect the health of our waterways, wetlands and coast, mitigate flood risk and damage and create public spaces that collect clean and recyclable water.”

Current rainfall patterns show that the city is still drought-stricken. A shift to ground water extraction, alien vegetation clearing in catchment areas and the establishment of a large scale desalination plant are some of the alternative measures.

Interventions of technical programmes such as water pressure management have saved 2.6 billion litres of water in a year. The replacement of nearly 70km of sewerage and water main pipes annually continues to reduce leaks.

Director of Water and Sanitation in the City of Cape Town, Michael Webster, says the current state of rivers is not up to standard and a fair portion is unsafe. Billions will be spent on water quality.

“We have 25 waste water treatment works throughout the city. We have an aggressive investment programme to upgrade all of those that need upgrading over the next 10 years. This is part of the capital programme that’s underway in our waste water treatment programmes. As you can see during this financial year, we are spending R850 million on our waste water treatment works and that goes up to R1.4 billion by 2023.”

The city says climate uncertainty makes it difficult to plan and very little data exist on what the future holds, but its strategy will aim to ensure that Cape Town never again faces a looming day zero.

In the video below, Cape Town launches a water strategy: