Day Zero moved due to declining agri usage

Day Zero, the day Capetonians may have to start queueing for water, is expected to move out to mid-May 2018 due to a decline in agricultural usage.

water flows

Many of the agricultural users in the Western Cape Supply System, where the City also draws its water from, have used up the water allocated to them as per the agreement with the National Department of Water and Sanitation.

Agricultural usage is therefore likely to drop significantly over the next weeks. Currently, the agriculture sector is drawing about 30% of the water in the supply scheme. This should fall to about 15% in March and 10% in April. It must be noted that the City does not have any control over agricultural releases, so this is the best estimate they can make with the information at hand.

This is a welcome decline in water usage and gives Cape Town and some of the other municipalities hope but importantly, we need to get our consumption down to 450 million litres per day to prevent the remaining water supplies running out before the arrival of winter rains. “We cannot accurately predict the volume of rainfall still to come, or when it will come,” says City of Cape Town’s media spokesperson.

‘Last year, we had abnormally low winter rainfall, and we cannot assume that this year will be any different. Even if we have been given a slight reprieve at this stage, we are likely to be facing a late and dry winter,’ reads recent a statement by the City.

All preparations for the possibility of reaching Day Zero continue in earnest. The City also continues with the roll-out of aggressive pressure management initiatives to stretch our supplies.

“In calculating Day Zero, we have consistently taken a conservative approach (based on what we have experienced before, especially in relation to agricultural usage) to water management and demand.”

The City has considered:

  • Evaporation The model assumes maximum calculated evaporation rates, based on historic calculations adjusted for increases in temperature and wind.
  • Agricultural releases The City extrapolated the National Department of Water and Sanitation’s (NDWS) unverified release data as read from the NDWS hydrology website. In the previous season, agriculture exceeded its unrestricted allocation by a small percentage. The City therefore has no historical evidence base to assume that agriculture would remain within their allocation. However, the national department has now shut off supply to two irrigation boards that utilised their full allocation by the end of January 2018. The City therefore feels more confident that agriculture will stay within their allocation this year, as opposed to the previous year. Had agricultural releases not slowed down, the threat of Day Zero would have moved closer.
  • Urban usage While the City has worked tirelessly on fixing bursts and leaks, installing water management devices and implementing advanced pressure management to drive down consumption and minimise leaks and bursts, urban demand is very much reliant on the behaviour of water users. For this reason, the model assumes that consumption will remain at the previous weeks’ average usage levels.

Tariff increases

As of 1 February 2018, level 6B water restrictions and tariffs have come into effect to help finance water services and to reduce usage.

To cover the costs of water and sanitation provision, and to assist in driving down demand further, the water and sanitation tariffs have been increased. The tariffs remain based on usage. The more you use, the more you pay. High users will be hit especially hard. The City does not make a profit on income from the sale of water.

This is part of the City’s efforts to avoid Day Zero and to create financial stability for the provision of water services. Although they have brought usage down from 1.1 billion litres a day to just under 600 million litres a day, it needs to get to 450 million litres of collective usage a day.

Latest water dashboard (

  • Day Zero: 11 May 2018 (was 16 April 2018)
  • Dam Levels: 5% (decline of 0.8%)
  • Total consumption: 547 million litres a day (97 million litres above the target of 450 million litres a day)



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