Water rationing – a survival guide in Cape Town

Capetonians are waking up to the reality of water rationing as authorities take drastic measures to cut consumption.

Capetonians are waking up to the reality of water rationing as authorities take drastic measures to cut consumption. Picture FILE

“Due to the critical nature of available water supply‚ all water users across the metro must expect water rationing which could lead to water supply disruptions‚” the city warned as it officially rolled out water rationing on Monday.

Residents living in elevated areas or tall buildings could be hardest hit. Cheryl Kruger experienced just that. Posting on the Water Shedding Western Cape Facebook page‚ she asked: “Whenever the water pressure is low we have no water on the 2nd floor. This happens every day. Is the landlord obligated to put in a pressure plate or not?”

Cape Town is divided into various water pressure zones‚ where the flow is managed manually or remotely‚ manipulating pressure valves in the network.

“If an area is using water above the daily limitation‚ pressure will be reduced to the required level to force consumption down. When consumers reduce consumption‚ pressure is restored‚” said the city.

The city has issued a series of guidelines to cope with water rationing. Here is an edited selection:


•Keep 5 to 10 litres of water for drinking use only for the household during rationing (average of four persons per household) and keep additional water for pets.
•Reconsider water use at peak water usage times. Flatten out the peak by showering (for no more than a minute) later in the evening or before 6am or do washing after 9pm‚ for example. Timetables of the outages cannot be provided as water systems are managed flexibly to avoid damage to infrastructure. Rationing does not work like electricity load-shedding.
•When you experience a loss of water supply‚ before you contact the City’s call centre‚ please check your neighbour’s supply first. Higher-lying properties will likely experience a higher risk of rationing.
•If you reside in or operate from multi-storey buildings‚ ensure that the water supply system (booster pumps and roof-top storage) is in working order in compliance with the Water By-law.
•Ensure that taps are closed when not in use to prevent flooding when the supply is restored. The City is not liable for damage to private infrastructure due to rationing.
•When supply is restored‚ the water may appear to be cloudy. Store it and use it for flushing.
•Store essential water in a cool‚ dark place away from light and dust‚ bottles must be sealed to prevent contamination. Clearly label water storage containers as “drinking water”.
•Where containers (other than bottles) are to be used for storage‚ ensure they are cleaned and disinfected.
•Keep non-drinking water for flushing‚ particularly in multi-storey buildings as the upper floors may not have water during pressure management cycles.
•Use less toilet paper as this requires less water to flush and prevents blockages. Only flush when required and close the lid of the toilet when flushing toilet bowls where urine has not been flushed. Use appropriate disinfectants and face masks and gloves where required.
•Wet wipes and sanitary pads must not be flushed down toilets as they cause blockages. Do not use your toilet as a dustbin‚ switch to one-ply toilet paper to prevent blockages when choosing to “let it mellow”.
•Ensure that non-municipal supply water for drinking purposes is acquired from reputable companies. The City advises against bulk water acquisition unless a company can prove that they have not tapped into the municipal supply. If in doubt‚ contact the City to investigate.
•Use waterless hand sanitiser where possible‚ ensure that fire extinguishers are in working condition. If possible‚ acquire fire extinguishers or increase the number of fire extinguishers in homes and buildings.
•Note that there may be a build-up of air within the water system when supply is restored‚ toilets that use flush-masters will be ineffective due to the low pressures.
•Note that high-pressure solar water heaters are not at risk of damage from low water pressure or short periods of no pressure (water outages).


•Store excessive municipal water or waste water.
•Where non-drinking water is kept for flushing‚ this should not be stored for longer than a couple of days. Do not use borehole‚ spring or river water for drinking. Greywater can be used to flush toilets but not sea water.
•Beware of thieves pretending to install water-efficient gadgets on behalf of the city in private homes in an effort to gain access to your premises.



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