With immediate effect, the City of Cape Town will be taking a number of new actions to drive down water consumption, including the introduction of level 5 restrictions, fines, and a further increase in pressure management, the city announced on Sunday.

“The upper limit of 87 litres per person and the overall target of 500 million litres per day of collective consumption remain in place. However, there is now a new emphasis on capping excessive water use at the domestic household level and placing additional restrictions on the commercial sector,” mayor Patricia de Lille said.

Measures to drive down consumption to 500 million litres of water per day were supplemented by other measures to augment the supply of water from non-surface water options by up to 500 million litres of water per day, which were currently under way. Together these actions formed part of the approach to building water resilience over the short- to medium-term, she said.

Notwithstanding the immense effort that many Capetonians had taken to reduce water consumption during the past year, there needed to be a further decrease in consumption if Cape Town was to safely navigate itself through the drought.

Since July 1, the city’s goal had been to reduce consumption to 500 million litres per day. As of last week, consumption stood at 599 million litres per day. “With the winter rainfall season likely to end in the next three to four weeks, we simply have to get used to using less water as we enter the summer season,” De Lille said.

Over the past year, all categories of water users had shown a trend of decreased consumption other than the commercial property category. This category included offices and small business operations. It excluded industrial properties which formed part of a separate category, and which had displayed a welcome significant drop in water consumption over the past year.

“The managers of commercial properties must with immediate effect ensure that their monthly consumption of the municipal supply of water is reduced by 20 percent compared with a year ago.

“The city acknowledges that there are some commercial properties that have made great strides to reduce consumption of municipal water, and therefore the historical usage of individual commercial properties and their efforts to install improved water management technologies will be taken into account when considering any enforcement measures against the owners of commercial properties in the future,” she said.

The city had carefully considered this latest measure which was in line with adapting to the “new normal” as a water-scarce region. This measure was not intended to negatively impact business operations, but was to ensure sustainability of the commercial sector by bringing about the necessary behavioural changes and mind-set to adapt to the new normal.

Commercial water users could reduce their consumption by installing water-efficient plumbing fittings and water-saving devices. “We are appealing to businesses to promote water-saving habits among staff and facility managers.”

With regard to domestic properties, the 87-litre per person limit remained in place. However, the cap on individual domestic property usage was now set at 20kl per month, beyond which the property owner would be subject to a very high fine.

“An engagement with the chief magistrate is forthcoming, but the fines are expected to be in the region of R5000 to R10,000. Confirmation of fines will be announced shortly.

“All users, whether in the domestic or commercial sector, are required to remain vigilant with regard to water use and, if curtailment of consumption is required, then they are to begin doing so immediately,” De Lille said.

“The usage in the month of September will determine what actions delinquent users will be subject to thereafter. Where non-compliance occurs, users can be subject to an admission of guilt fine or, in accordance with section 36(4) of the city’s water by-law, the installation of a water management device (the cost of which will be billed to the account holder). Installation of these devices in the households of the most excessive users commenced three weeks ago and will be ramped up in the coming weeks.”

The city had made considerable strides with regard to lowering water pressure over the past three months, which had contributed to reducing overall consumption of municipal water. There was, however, room for further measures to reduce water pressure, which would commence immediately.

Further pressure reduction was likely to result in supply interruptions being experienced in higher-lying areas of the city’s supply zones for short periods during the day. Multi-storey buildings that did not make use of pumps and overhead tanks as required by the city’s building regulations were likely to experience supply problems.

Residents were encouraged to approach their body corporates or managing agents to ensure that these systems were in place and operational. Residents were advised to keep an emergency store of between 2 – 5 litres of water for drinking and basic hygiene at all times, De Lille said.