Cape Town lies in a water scarce region and options for new water schemes are limited since the completion of the Berg Dam in 2007. Before the introduction of the programme, water consumption was growing at 4.7% per annum, which was clearly unsustainable.
Current challenges include population and income growth and the effects of climate change. The city is experiencing rapid urbanisation, and its population increased by more than 30% between 2001 and 2011. Cape Town’s water insecurity is compounded by climate change risks as medium-term predictions for the city include reduced rainfall, higher average temperatures, increased wind speed, and an increased likelihood of drought.
Through careful management, ingenuity and consumer education, the City of Cape Town has managed to stabilise water demand. Water consumption growth has been reduced to less than 2% per annum and water wastage reduced to 20%, resulting in total water savings of approximately 30%. Expensive capital infrastructure projects, including an additional water supply scheme, have been postponed due to these water savings.
Recycled water is used to irrigate public parks and green areas and 6% of all potable water is now recycled. More than 4,000 households have been visited for leak detections and repairs, and 258 kilometres of water pipes have been replaced in order to reduce pipe bursts and water leaks.
The project has resulted in direct savings of 58,473 ton CO2 per year. This is attributed to reduced energy requirements for pumping drinking water and wastewater as well as for treating wastewater. Additional CO2 saving, have been realised through avoiding or delaying infrastructural expansion, which would have been required by now, had water consumption not been reduced.
The WCWDM programme has extremely large financial and environmental co-benefits. Reduced water demand eases the environmental strain placed on the region’s water system including rivers and ground water systems. Successful control of water demand growth has allowed the city to avoidance or delay costly capital expansions to the water system, including an additional water augmentation scheme and the a major upgrade planned for the bulk water system. The delayed implementation of these schemes allows hundreds of millions of public money to be channelled towards service delivery and other developmental priorities.
Moreover, the programme establishes affordable water tariffs (plus a free monthly allocation) and the creation of jobs in plumbing and other semi-skilled sectors within the community.