Cape Town’s quest for water security

The City of Cape Town is warning its residents that their water consumption is too high and that they need to reduce their water use to winter levels.

This is in response to a drought in the Western Cape that has seen dam levels in the province drop to 55%: down 10% compared to last year.

Cape Town’s quest for water security

Because Cape Town is situated in a water-scarce region, the city imposes water restrictions on a permanent basis, with the level of water restrictions dependent on dam storage levels. Cape Town has three levels of water restrictions:

  • Level 1 (10% water savings): Normally in place
  • Level 2 (20% water savings): Applicable when dam levels are lower than the norm
  • Level 3 (30% water savings): Applicable when dam levels are critically low
Cape Town

Cape Town’s quest for water security

Drought restrictions

Since 1 November, Cape Town has been under Level 3 (30% water savings) which restricts water usage activities including the prohibition of residents using sprinkler systems, watering their gardens, and washing their cars with hosepipes with municipality-supplied drinking water.

Cape Town pricing its way to water security

To reduce water consumption further, Cape Town will, from 1 December 2016 until further notice, charge all residential, commercial and industrial water uses Level 3 (30% savings) tariffs. For domestic water users, the first 6,000 liters remains free, but the next block rates will increase significantly (see table 1 below). Meanwhile, commercial and industrial waters, who are normally charged R18.77 including VAT per thousand liters (under Level 1 water savings), will now be paying the Level 3 charge of R25.35 per thousand liters (table 2).

Table 1. Cape Town’s residential water tariffs

Water 2016/17 (domestic full) Steps Unit* Level 1 (10% reduction) Normal tariffs Rands (incl VAT) Level 2 (20% reduction) During level 2 restrictions Rands (incl VAT) Level 3 (30% reduction) During level 3 restrictions Rands (incl VAT)
Step 1 (>0 ≤ 6kl) /kl R 0.00 R 0.00 R 0.00
Step 2 (>6 ≤ 10.5kl) /kl R 14.89 R 15.68 R 16.54
Step 3 (>10.5 ≤ 20kl) /kl R 17.41 R 20.02 R 23.54
Step 4 (>20 ≤ 35kl) /kl R 25.80 R 32.65 R 40.96
Step 5 (>35 ≤ 50kl) /kl R 31.86 R 48.93 R 66.41
Step 6 (>50kl) /kl R 42.03 R 93.39 R 200.16

*1kl is a thousand liters


Table 2. Cape Town’s commercial and industrial water tariffs

Commercial & Industrial water use (Standard) Unit Level 1 (10% reduction)
Rands (incl VAT)
Level 2 (20% reduction)
Rands (incl VAT)
Level 3 (30% reduction)
Rands (incl VAT)
Water Per kl R18.77 R21.82 R25.35

Revenue-neutral tariffs

While water consumption will decrease, the tariff has been designed to be revenue-neutral when applied to the current consumption levels. The proposed increases are designed to recover the loss in revenue due to the reduction in billed consumption, so no operational consequences are expected.

The take-out

During times of drought, water utilities can implement revenue-neutral pricing strategies that encourage conservation.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley). Urban Water Security argues that, with climate change and rapid urbanization, cities need to transition from supply-side to demand-side management to achieve urban water security.

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1 Comment

  1. It would be interesting to see the change in rainfall for Cape Town over the last few years; it seems to have decreased very rapidly.

    I must add that The City of Cape Town is one of the most competent metropolitan municipalities in South Africa and their communication efforts to decrease water usage have been effective.

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