Torrential rain fills Cape Town dams to six-year high

Theewaterskloof Dam resembled a desert during the three-year drought, but an injection of 10-billion litres in just a day left it 82.8% full on August 18 2020.
Theewaterskloof Dam resembled a desert during the three-year drought, but an injection of 10-billion litres in just a day left it 82.8% full on August 18 2020.
Image: Esa Alexander

Downpours in the past few days have filled Cape Town's six major dams to their highest levels in six years.

On Tuesday, the dams were 86.3% full — 2.3 percentage points or around 20-billion litres more than a day earlier.

The last time the dams were at this level was late in 2014. Three years of low winter rainfall saw them sink as low as 20%, forcing the imposition of severe water restrictions.

The winter of 2019 ended with dams at 84%, but heavy rains so far this winter — with another deluge forecast overnight on Monday — will see them close to 100% full by the end of the rainy season.

After dams reached 84% of their capacity on Monday, mayoral committee member for water Xanthea Limberg urged residents to be cautious when calling for water restrictions to be removed.

“Future rainfall is uncertain and new water sources are still in development. A decision on restriction levels for the 2020/2021 hydrological year will be taken on review of the rainy season at the end of August,” she said.

“Tariffs for the new financial year, starting July 1, will be set only to recoup the expected costs of operations/maintenance, and as usual will therefore be significantly determined by anticipated volumes of water consumed by residents and business.”

Since the drought, water consumption in Cape Town has settled at around 650 megalitres a day, about 25% lower than before the crisis.

At this rate of consumption, the increase between Monday and Tuesday is enough to keep Cape Town supplied for 31 days.

The city's biggest dam, Theewaterskloof, accounted for 10-billion litres of the one-day boost on Tuesday, pushing its level to 82.8%.

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