The generous rain that has fallen in the Overstrand over the past few weeks has prompted the municipality to relax water restrictions, even though the level of the De Bos dam is still only at 50% of its capacity.
At a council meeting on 22 January, Mayor Dudley Coetzee said:
“Over the past number of days Hermanus has been blessed with rain in excess of 85mm, which has raised the level of the De Bos dam to above 50%. Water is still flowing strongly across the weir into the dam and we predict that the dam level will continue to rise.”
According to the municipality, the Greater Hermanus area will revert to Level 2 water restrictions as of 1 February 2020.
“With level 2 water restrictions, the first increment of the approved water restriction tariffs
is still applicable, which entails a 30% tariff increase on usage above 6 kl per month for household consumption, as well as all other usage. Relaxation of the water restriction tariffs will be considered when the De Bos dam level reaches 70%,” the municipality said in a statement.
Other administrative areas within the Overstrand are not affected by these measures since they still have sufficient water resources. These measures apply to the administrative area of Hermanus only, in other words to all residential areas from Benguela Cove through Fisherhaven to Voëlklip.
According to municipal Director of Infrastructure and Planning, Stephen Müller the decision last year to tighten water restrictions from Level 2 to Level 3 was taken while the level of the De Bos dam was at 45% and decreasing.
“Shortly after the restrictions came into effect, we received unseasonal rain and the level of the dam started rising. Coupled with the fact that the daily water consumption during the peak season was lower than in previous years, we took the decision to ease water restrictions.”
Müller said in addition to the rainfall there have also been numerous requests from residents to allow them to water their gardens at least once a week with a hosepipe.
“Many older residents who have lovingly tended gardens no longer have the ability to water their gardens with buckets or watering cans, and because of the Level 3 restrictions these gardens were withering away. We also took these requests into consideration when we decided to relax the restrictions,” said Müller.
He added that it is anticipated that the two new boreholes that were drilled near the Gateway Centre will start supplying water soon. “If everything goes according to plan, the first borehole will come online by the end of March and the second by the end of April. While boreholes play an increasingly important role in our water supply, at least 70% of our potable water still comes from the De Bos dam.”
Hanré Blignaut, Deputy Director, Engineering Planning at the municipality, said they will consider easing the Level 2 water restrictions only when the level of the De Bos dam reaches 70%.
“We monitor the level of the dam on an ongoing basis and regularly check on the flow of water into the system. We are aware of claims that less water is flowing into the dam because of an increase in water usage and dams higher up in the catchment area. To this end we have requested the Breede-
Gouritz Catchment Management Agency, which manages the water resources in the area to do an audit on water usage in the Onrus catchment area. This will enable us to better manage this scarce resource,” said Blignaut.
Water restrictions relaxed to level 2
Several Hermanus residents have also questioned whether the municipal boreholes have influenced the water table of wellpoints in residential areas.
A reader of The Village NEWS, Monica Hugo of Northcliff, said that although the municipality had stated that the new boreholes at the top of Duiker Street would not affect private wellpoints, it seemed as if this was not the case.
“I have been a resident of Northcliff for more than 26 years and even during severe droughts wellpoints have never dried up, as is the case now. In the past, gardens used to stay lush and green during summer and even in times of drought. But now one can see gardens wilting because of a lack of water and wellpoints and boreholes are drying up,” said Hugo.
Blignaut said that the borehole at the top of Duiker Street is not in use yet and therefore can have no influence on wellpoints or boreholes in the suburb.
“Municipal boreholes extract water from deep within the Peninsula Aquifer, which is separated by three impermeable ground formations from the lower aquifer that is used by domestic boreholes and wellpoints.
“Research done on the water levels of several boreholes over the past 20 years indicates that the lower aquifers are not connected to the Peninsula Aquifer in any way. Thus, the boreholes near Gateway will have no influence on domestic boreholes. The reverse is also true: extraction from the lower aquifers will have no impact on the aquifer from which the municipality extracts water,” said Blignaut.
According to him, below average rainfall was recorded over the past five years in Hermanus, something that has never occurred before. This leads to the lower aquifers drying up sooner during the hotter summer season.
“In addition, due to the protracted drought in the Western Cape and specifically in Hermanus, more private boreholes and wellpoints have been sunk, which has put more pressure than ever before on the lower aquifers. While private boreholes do not need to be licensed by the Department of Water and Sanitation, we urge users to remember that this water resource is finite and that it also needs to be used sparingly, especially during the dry season,” said Blignaut.
Here are the amended level 2 water restrictions for Hermanus:
- The use of irrigation systems and hosepipes is allowed when watering gardens, but remember, only for one hour per day, once a week;
- The day per week is determined in accordance with street numbers. For residents with even numbers, it is Wednesdays ONLY, and for those with uneven numbers, Tuesdays ONLY;
- Please water gardens before 09:00 or after 17:00 on any of these days;
- The washing of vehicles and hard surfaces with a hose pipe using municipal water is still not allowed. Vehicles may only be washed using a bucket;
- Swimming pools may be filled with municipal water.
Levels of the major dams supplying Cape Town, Winelands, West Coast and the Overberg:
De Bos: 50.7%
Berg River: 86.2%
Steenbras Lower: 79.1%
Steenbras Upper: 99,7%