The City of Cape Town has assured residents that the municipal water remained safe to drink and that water quality was being closely monitored.
This is despite the “seriously declining dam levels” and high levels of geosmin in the water drawn from the Theewaterskloof Dam.
The City made the announcement on its Facebook page on Thursday, after it said there were many water quality enquiries from the public.
“Water quality is closely monitored via a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards (SANS 241:2015) requirements,” said the City.
“We have been experiencing high levels of geosmin in the water drawn from the Theewaterskloof Dam. Geosmin [is] a naturally occurring organic compound which has an earthy flavour and aroma. It is sometimes present in water.”
However, the City said geosmin posed no threat to human health, but the human palate could detect even the smallest amount.
The City said it had applied a “stringent treatment process” in a bid to deal with the geosmin, but warned that it might be a while for the taste and smell in the water to normalise. This is over a large area of the central and southern Cape Town suburbs.
The City further warned residents not to fall victim to many water-related hoaxes, which caused “unnecessary panic”.
Yet the City said it was at a “critical juncture”, warning that water use had to be brought down to 600 million litres “immediately”.
Earlier this week, the City announced in a statement that the dam levels were at 21.2% but as the last 10% of dam water mostly unusable, the dam levels are at 11.2%. This is an 0.8% decrease from last week.
Consumption was 118 million litres over the City’s consumption target of 600 million litres, and the City issued a “critical warning to all water users in Cape Town to cut all non-essential use of water immediately”.
“This is not a drill,” said the City.
The City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, councillor Xanthea Limberg, explained they were saying residents could use “a bit of water for drinking, cooking and washing”.
“We are reaching a critical point in this drought crisis. Although we continue to work non-stop to force consumption down, overall use remains catastrophically high. This is not a request. We have seen huge saving-efforts, but the unseasonably hot autumn is exacerbating the situation, and we must all do more,” said Limberg.
“Rain or shine, we are now at a point where all consumers must use below 100 litres per day. Stop flushing toilets when not necessary, shower for less than two minutes a day or use a wet cloth for a ‘wipe-down’, collect all would-be wasted water and use it to fill up toilet cisterns, among others.”
The City also said dredging operations had begun at the Voëlvlei Dam. This aimed to prepare for low-level extraction of water.
“The City is engaging with the lead authority, the national department of water and sanitation, as a matter of urgency to request dredging operations at Theewaterskloof Dam too,” it said in a statement.
Further, the City said it was continuing its pressure-reduction programmes across the metro. This “forcibly reduces supply”.
The City said that it also had other emergency interventions under way and that the City would also implement “a lifeline supply of water across the metro” if it were needed.
Limberg added: “In a severe drought, such as what we are dealing with, the only real immediate intervention is to cut usage. Over this coming week, we must bring consumption down with 100 million litres of water per day. The City also warns businesses to start implementing contingency and alternative water measures in their own operations.”
On Tuesday, The City’s mayoral committee recommended that Level-4 water restriction be implemented. If council approves the adoption of these water restrictions, which would ban the use of municipal water for outside and non-essential use, they would come into effect from June 1.