Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/GCIS
Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: KOPANO TLAPE/GCIS

The DA is seeking an undertaking from Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane that the agricultural sector will stick to its water allocation and not dip into supplies intended for drought-stricken Cape Town.

Cape Town has imposed strict water restrictions limiting residents to 50l per person per day in a bid to stretch its dwindling reserves.

Dam levels now stand at 25.5%, compared to 26.3% last week, and while the city’s daily consumption is dropping, it remains 97-million litres higher than the target of 450-million litres per day, DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Wednesday.

If the city fails to meet this target, it risks running so low on water it will turn off the taps to all but essential services and residents will have to queue for a daily ration of 25l. Continued water savings were essential to avoid this point, dubbed Day Zero, he said

“Day Zero still remains a possibility and defeating it will require a collective effort from households, businesses and all three spheres of government.”

The city had originally projected that Day Zero would fall on April 12, but earlier this week the date was pushed back to May 11, thanks to savings by residents and agriculture.

Cape Town deputy mayor Ian Neilson said that by January the agricultural sector had drawn down its full allocation for the 2017-18 hydrological year from the Western Cape water supply, while the city had used just a quarter of its allocation in this period. The hydrological year begins in November.

“Our concern is the 174.7-million cubic metres allocated to us, and whether the national minister will ensure we get it,” said Neilson. Agriculture had been allocated 58-million cubic metres of water, he said.

Mokonyane should publicly guarantee that Cape Town would get its full allocation, and that none of it would be given to other municipalities or agriculture. “It is vital for managing the year [ahead],” he said.

Maimane said the City of Cape Town was pressing ahead with measures to augment its water supply, and three desalination plants should add up to 16-million litres of water per day into the system by May.

Three groundwater projects were under way, which at their peak should provide the city with close to 150-million litres of water a day, and the city had also secured a water transfer of 10,000 cubic metres from the Eikenhof Dam in Grabouw, which would enter the system over the next four months.

In a separate development, the Department of Water and Sanitation issued a statement calling on people to pray for rain this weekend — on the very days that rain is forecast. The South African Weather Service has forecast rain for Cape Town and the Theewaterskloof Dam area on Friday and Saturday.

“Faith-based organisations play an important role in our communities and the department believes these can play a critical role in mitigating water challenges we continue to face. We call upon all South Africans to heed this call and pray for the rain while also adhering to water restrictions,” the department said in a statement.

The department is not alone in its conviction that the power of prayer could end the Western Cape’s drought.

Paseka “Pastor Mboro” Motsoeneng has said the best way to help drought-stricken Cape Town would be to start a 90-day prayer service, while evangelist Angus Buchan — who promised in 2017 that the dams would be full by March — said earlier this week Capetonians needed to repent before it would rain.