What Level 5 Water Restrictions Mean + Water Saving Tips

Words: Crush

Level-5-Water-restrictions-3The Western Cape is currently in the middle of a drought crisis. Reservoir dams in the province are so depleted that they’re currently way below capacity, with just on half of that actually being drinkable, which means that tariffs and restrictions are in place to conserve water. This week (3 September 2017), the Western Cape was bumped up to level 5 water restrictions and domestic properties with usage above 20 kilolitres per month will be subject to excessive water consumption fines.

One of the main changes as a result of level 5 water restrictions is the personal usage drop from 100 litres to 87 liters. The average household bucket holds around 10-13 liters of water, so, imagine around 7-8 of those buckets filled and that’s what you have for the day, to flush the loo, wash your hair, brush your teeth with etc. If the council was actually issuing those buckets to you daily (let’s say you’re queuing to get them) and that is all you had to use, you’d no doubt find a way to make that work. And the theory should be the same in practice.

The province is in a crisis state and it is EVERYONE’S responsibility to save water, no matter how little you think you are using, you are probably already over the limit. Bottom line? No one is exempt.

In a nutshell, level 5 water restrictions mean the following:

  • Use no more than 87 litres of municipal drinking water per person per day whether you are at home, work or elsewhere.
  • Individual domestic properties using more than 20kl of water per month will be fined.
  • No hosing down of paved surfaces with municipal drinking water.
  • No irrigation or watering with municipal drinking water allowed.
  • No washing of vehicles, trailers, caravans or boats with municipal drinking water allowed. They must be washed with non-drinking water or cleaned with waterless products or dry-steam cleaning processes.
  • Private swimming pools may not be topped up or filled with municipal drinking water.
  • Use of portable play pools prohibited.
  • Water features may not use municipal drinking water.

Direct from the City of Cape Town in more detail


  • All water users are required to use no more than 87 litres of municipal drinking water per person per day in total irrespective of whether you are at home, work or elsewhere.
  • No watering/irrigation with municipal drinking water allowed. This includes watering/irrigation of flower beds, lawns, vegetables, agricultural crops, other plants, sports fields, golf courses, schools, educational facilities, nurseries, parks and other open spaces, customers involved in agricultural activities, etc. (Nurseries and customers involved in agricultural activities or with historical gardens may apply for exemption. For more information, visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater.)
  • City departments may only water/irrigate sports fields, parks, etc. using non-drinking water and upon agreement of days and times with the Water and Sanitation department.
  • Facilities/customers making use of borehole water, treated effluent water, spring water or well points are encouraged not to water/irrigate within seven days after rainfall that provided adequate saturation.  All boreholes and well points must be registered with the City and must display the official City of Cape Town signage clearly visible from a public thoroughfare. Visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater for how to register. Borehole/well point water must be used efficiently to avoid wastage and evaporation. Borehole/well point water users are strongly encouraged to water/irrigate only on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 09:00 or after 18:00 for a maximum of one hour.
  • All properties where alternative, non-drinking water resources are used (including rainwater harvesting, greywater, treated effluent water and spring water) must display signage to this effect clearly visible from a public thoroughfare. Visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater for further information.
  • No washing or hosing down of hard-surfaced or paved areas with municipal drinking water allowed. Users, such as abattoirs, food processing industries, care facilities, animal shelters and other industries or facilities with special needs must apply for exemption. For more information, visit www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater.
  • The use of municipal drinking water for ornamental water fountains or water features is prohibited.
  • No topping up (manual/automatic) of swimming pools with municipal drinking water is allowed, even if fitted with a pool cover. This includes the filling of new pools or the refilling of an existing pool after a repair. This applies to all pools, including public pools and pools at clubs, businesses and institutions.


  • Single residential properties (domestic full tariff category) must ensure that the consumption of municipal drinking water per property is not more than 20 000 litres per month.
  • Cluster developments (e.g. flats and housing complexes) must ensure that the average consumption of municipal drinking water per residential unit is not more than 20 000 litres per month.
  • No washing of vehicles, trailers, caravans or boats with municipal drinking water allowed. These must be washed with non-drinking water or cleaned with waterless products or dry steam cleaning processes.
  • Customers are strongly encouraged to install water efficient parts, fittings and technologies to minimise water use at all taps, showerheads and other plumbing components.
  • You are encouraged to flush toilets (e.g. manually using a bucket) with greywater, rainwater or other non-drinking water.
  • The use of portable or any temporary play pools is prohibited.
  • No increase of the indigent water allocation over and above the free 350 litres a day will be granted, unless through prior application and permission for specific events such as burial ceremonies.


How you can make a difference

If you aren’t already doing everything in your power to conserve water (why on earth not?) then you need to get with the programme and start now. If you are already being super mindful of your water usage, read on for extra tips – things that you may not have thought of.

Catch your excess water in the shower

While you wait for the shower to heat up, place a bucket under the running water to catch the cool water. This perfectly clean water that can be used for a variety of uses – fill up your kettle or your fish tank, or fill up pets’ water bowls. You can also boil, cool and store to use as drinking water. You can also do something similar in your sink by placing a small bucket or container under the tap. Throughout the day as you rinse your hands, glasses or whatever else, the bucket will catch the excess grey water and you can then use that to flush the toilet. Also, if it wasn’t already obvious, turn the tap off while washing your hair or shaving. Those few minutes of switching off will make all the difference to your water consumption.

Shower smartly

There are a couple of ways to shower more smartly. Firstly, shower with your partner or kids where possible and keep your showers short. Choose your favourite 2-3 minute song and get in and out in under that time. Also, especially now in winter when it’s taking a while to heat water up (make sure you have a bucket in there – see point one above) shower directly after someone (if not with someone) so that you don’t need to run the shower to heat up a second or third time. If your shower is over your bath, use a biodegradable soap, keep the plug in to catch the water and then use this grey water to flush the loo.


Reuse pasta/ potato cooking water

Don’t just throw out water because something was cooked in it! If you’ve boiled potatoes, eggs or pasta, keep the water, let it cool and reuse it. Water that has a bit of salt in it won’t harm your plants and the nutrients extracted from egg shells will actually benefit them. Alternatively, you could add that water to soups and stocks later on.

Don’t order a glass of water at a restaurant, unless you intend to actually drink it

Some restaurants can throw up to 10 litres of water a night out as a result of guests ordering a glass of water and then not drinking it. And yes, the onus is on the restaurant to recycle that water as much as they reasonably can, but other than watering their plants, how else can they use a half-drunk glass of water? Instead, be sure to drink all your water, or don’t ask for a glass unless you’re certain you’re going to drink it. In the same way, if a waiter simply brings you a glass, tell them you’re not going to drink it and they can recycle it wisely.


Reuse a water bottle or glass

Keeping the same water glass throughout the day means less water required for washing it when you’re done drinking. It also ensures that you finish your glasses of water, instead of dotting half-full glasses all over the house, forgetting about them and then chucking out the old water. Also, if you do find old water bottles or glasses that have been standing, don’t chuck the water down the sink, use it to water indoor plants etc.

Did you know? South Africa is classified as a water-stressed country because annually it receives nearly half of the earth’s average rainfall. So, even when we’re not in a drought situation as we are currently, water awareness is ALWAYS important. Source waterwise.co.za

Don’t run the water until it’s cold – keep some in the fridge

The same rule applies for not wasting water while it cools down as it does for when waiting for it to warm up.  During warmer times of the year, the water that sits in the pipes can heat up quite a bit. Over a litre of water can be wasted waiting for that water to cool down. Avoid this and keep bottles or jugs of water in the fridge, it’s much cooler than out of the tap and an easier way of drinking cold water.

Replace taps and showerheads with water saving attachments

Replace your old shower head with a water saving one that will disperse the spray more widely and use less water. For your taps, you can affix an attachment that turns the water flow into a soft mist-like spray, offering enough moisture for you to wash your hands and rinse dishes, but won’t let litres of water run down the drain.

Fix leaks

Leaks and drips have been found to be one of the main causes of water being wasted unnecessarily. Make sure your washers are working properly and fix any apparent drips or leaks ASAP!


Use old water for watering plants or dog’s water bowls

Do you ever wake up with a glass of water on your bedside table that sat overnight and now tastes a little odd? Don’t just chuck it, either water your plants or top up your dog’s water bowl with it – he won’t mind the taste!

Always run a full washing machine and dishwasher

The modern versions of these machines are designed to be water-efficient – when used properly. Make sure that you run a full load and when it comes to your dishwasher, don’t rinse your plates before stacking them as this wastes water. Simply make sure that all bits of food have been well-scraped and your dishes will come out nice and clean. Also, make sure that your filter is cleared of any gunk and that you rinse with salt every so often so that your dishwasher stays nice and clean and you don’t have to waste more water re-washing.

Think conservatively about running your washing machine. If you don’t need to wash all your pairs of jeans every time you do a load then don’t. Be smart about your washing. Wahs a full load and only when you need to.

Be water conscious when travelling

Visiting a guest house, B&B or hotel in the Western Cape? They’re not exempt from the restrictions. Most won’t want to ask guests outright to actively conserve water but if you ask how you can help, they should be only too happy to assist. A bucket in the shower to catch water as it heats up is not going to detract from your stay, so be an adult and speak up.

Did you know… In South Africa a family of four can use anything between 300 and 800 litres of water in the home per day, whereas in some countries people use as little as  25 litres of water per person. Always be mindful of your water usage and think about how you can reduce. Source waterwise.co.za

Water your garden wisely – with uncontaminated grey water

Sprinklers and hosepipes are now banned and you’re only allowed to water your garden with a bucket in the evening. So, instead of using water from the tap to do this, collect water from half drunk glasses, your shower and bath and to water your plants and gardens. Mulch the soil around your beds as this helps hold water or longer, lessening the need to water. Water your garden when it’s coolest in the late evening to prevent evaporation. Use biodegradable soap so that you don’t risk killing your plants or poisoning your soil.

“If it’s yellow, let it mellow”

Let’s be honest, this one may be a little icky for some but it does certainly make a difference. Depending on how modern your toilet is, a flush can use anywhere between 6 and 14 litres of water. The average person uses about 35 litres of water a day simply in the loo. If you’re at home, skip unnecessary flushes and use grey water to flush the loo with (see point 1). Also, drop a brick (carefully) into your toilet tank to disperse some of the water, so that the tank fills up less. You’ll get the same pressure but will use less water.

Level 5 water restrictions are here to stay so don’t pretend it’s not your responsibility. Share your water saving tips with a buddy and help spread the word.

If you see someone abusing water usage in Cape Town please report it. Also, help save water, report issues such as burst pipes or faulty meters.

  • Call 0860 103 089 and choose option 2 for water-related faults.
  • SMS 31373 (max of 160 characters)
  • Email restrictions@capetown.gov.za (water restriction offences only)
  • Online through The City of Cape Town’s Service Requests tool

For more handy tips and information about waterwise gardening visit waterwise.co.za or cityofcapetown.gov.za.

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