As the much-feared Day Zero looms when the taps will run dry in Cape Town, the Overstrand is set to face its own water-related challenges with its dam.
“There has been a notable influx in the number of ‘water tourists’ to the Cape Whale Coast, arriving here with the prospect of doing their laundry, having a relaxing bath or shower and filling up their water containers to the brim,” says Whale Coast Tourism Manager Frieda Lloyd.
“Water tourists include people who own holiday homes in the area or who book accommodation to have access to more water. From 1 February residents in the Cape Metropole will be allowed only 50 litres of water per person per day.”
According to letting agents, there has also been a surge in residents from over the mountain renting properties here and commuting to work to escape the impact of Day Zero, now estimated to be on 12 April.
With the level of the De Bos Dam at close to 50% (down from 62.8% at the end of November last year) compared to 87.9% at the end of December 2016, the Overstrand Municipality says it is continually monitoring our water reserves and will implement stricter water restrictions before the 40% level is reached. If the De Bos dam reaches the 40% level residents in Hermanus can expect to pay an increased tariff on water consumption.
“What is notable is that both local and international tourists are informed about the water situation and inquire about what the limits for water usage are here,” says Frieda.
Apart from more pressure on our water resources by visitors, there are additional
challenges that need to be addressed as soon as possible, says Coenie Groenewald,
“A strategic planning session, that will include members of the Infrastructure and Planning Directorate as well as from Law Enforcement, Safety and Security, and Community Services will be held shortly to discuss plans to safeguard our water supplies. “We have to look at all possible scenarios when the taps run dry in the areas surrounding the Overstrand and people come looking for water here.”
2017 drier and hotter than normal
“We will look at access to water infrastructure like public taps as well as fire hydrants, which we need to secure in order to prevent people from filling their containers or tanks at these points.
“We also constantly monitor the dam and aquifer levels. We furthermore request homeowners, especially those who have holiday homes, to secure their outside taps to prevent any water theft,” says Coenie.
While the current Level 1 water restrictions in Greater Hermanus only apply to the watering of gardens and washing of vehicles with hosepipes, there is no limit on the amount of water that may be used. It is, therefore, possible to fill containers with municipal water as long as it passes through a municipal meter and is paid for. It is, however, illegal for individuals
to sell water.
“This is a moral dilemma. In the Overstrand, we have access to water and there is no immediate threat of the taps running dry. But with more than 4 million people
living in the Cape Metropole, what does one do when thousands of them pitch up here to fill their tanks? On the one hand, one cannot refuse people in need, but on the other hand, charity does begin at home,” says Coenie.
Rainfall figures from the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) indicate that Hermanus received 49.9 mm of rain in December compared to a mean average of 22.6 mm over the last 70 years.
However, the figures indicate the total rainfall for 2017 at 569 mm compared to an average of 608 mm over the past 70 years. During 2017 the average monthly rainfall was below average for 8 out of the 12 months. May was the driest month with only 9.3 mm measured against an average of 59.8 mm. According to the statistics, in 2017 the average temperatures were higher than average for 9 out of the 12 months.
The average daily water demand of Hermanus during December 2017 was 13.0 million litres per day, compared to 15.98 million litres per day during December 2016. This amounts to a saving of 18.6%, or 92.1 million litres of water in December compared to the previous year.
The Buffels River Dam, which supplies water to Rooiels, Pringle Bay, and Betty’s Bay, is still close to 100% full, as is the Kraaibosch Dam at Gansbaai and the Pearly Beach Dam. The boreholes supplying Hermanus, Stanford, Baardskeerdersbos and Buffeljagsbaai have not been adversely affected by the drought at this stage.