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Rising Cape Town dam levels to buoy agriculture and tourism

Government and the tourism sector now need to get the message out.
Collectively, the region’s six largest dams are more than 80% full for the first time in four years, raising hopes for a return to business as usual in the province. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

With Cape Town dam levels hitting a new high of 81.7% and average Western Cape dam levels set to top the psychological 65% mark, the agriculture and tourism sectors in the province are eyeing better prospects in coming months.

Both city and provincial dam levels reached a four-year high in August, following the region’s worst drought in 100 years, which hit the agriculture, tourism and property sectors particularly badly.

The City of Cape Town’s latest Dam levels report shows that the Western Cape Water Supply System, comprising the region’s six largest dams, on Monday recorded another week of improvement, up 1.2% to 81.7%. This time last year, average dam levels in the system were at 59.6% while in 2017 they were at just 32.3%.

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Two dams in the system, the Berg River and Steenbras Lower dams, are more than 100% full while Theewaterskloof, the city’s largest dam, surpassed the 70% mark last week. The national Department of Water and Sanitation said last week that average dam levels in the Western Cape were at 64.55%, a 12% increase on last year.

Higher yields expected for crops

Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber, tells Moneyweb that with the Western Cape receiving good rainfall in the past few weeks, wheat, barley and canola crops can expect higher yields. However, he is taking a “wait and see” approach with regards to the horticultural side, which includes table grape and wine grape production.

“While the recent rains have benefitted horticulture in the province, it is still too early to say what the positive impact will be. We need the good rains to continue into August and September to increase soil moisture content and to really boost horticulture.”

Sihlobo says the Western Cape is an important player, accounting for about 20% of SA’s agriculture economy. “Continued good rains and a turnaround in the province will lift the country’s agriculture sector as a whole,” he says.

“The bottom line is that the Western Cape is in a far better water position than it was in 2017 and 2018. This will benefit not just the agriculture sector and jobs, but the broader economy.”

Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, says Cape Town’s much-improved dam levels are “good news” for tourism. “Thankfully the drought situation was relatively short-lived, and we never reached ‘Day Zero’ in the city.

Communication pivotal

“However, there are lessons to be learnt in terms of how we communicate such situations in order not to shoot ourselves in the foot and scare off tourists. The way [the drought] was communicated is still having a lingering impact on tourism.”

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Tshivhengwa says the tourism industry and government need to work together to now get the message across that there are no longer major water issues in Cape Town.

“We hope the good rains continue in the broader Western Cape, but the fact that dam levels are over 80% in Cape Town is a positive. It is expected to not only benefit the city as SA’s leading international tourist destination, but the country too as Cape Town is seen as the hook for many international tourists coming to the country,” he adds.

Responding to queries from Moneyweb, Cornelis van der Waal, chief research officer at Wesgro – the Western Cape’s trade and tourism promotion agency – says its research shows that the drought is “a lingering concern” for potential international visitors.

“It is therefore incredibly important that we get messaging out that the water situation has improved significantly, with Cape Town dams exceeding 80%,” he says.

“This is a positive story that showcases our destination’s resilience, and will only help to increase bookings.

“Visitors should come and visit our beautiful city and province.”

Van der Waal adds that the Cape’s tourism industry had a tough start to the year with a decline of about 3% in the first quarter of 2019. “However, all indications are that the second quarter saw a growth of around 5% and, based on our projections, the industry is expected to grow at about 2-5% until the end of the year.”

“It is also worth noting that in 2018, international tourist numbers stayed more or less flat at 1.7 million despite the drought. The overall decline has largely been because domestic tourism is down and that is primarily because of the weaker economy,” he adds.

On the agricultural side, he says the good rainfall in the current season will help farmers during the drier summer months. However, he notes that there are areas in the province where much more rain is still required.

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You forgot to mention the crime in WC and SA which tourists are fleeing from and finding better places elsewhere, white sandy beaches in the Caribbean. Expect planes arriving to be half empty in the next 4 years from EU and more half full leaving from SA.
Weakening of the rand is good for the export market, especially produce from WC, but that’s about it…

Very insightful comment. Now, go and order yourself an overpriced flat white coffee, open the window and listen to the Sydney house prices fall.
If you are interested in crime reporting follow this link to the Crime Section in the Sydney Morning Herald ( ). The first 10 articles if for free but you will have to pay for the other 389.
You will be happy to hear it contain local reports on car jackings, murders and other violent crime. Knock yourself out.

Wow, the lowest of all low. An insinuation that crime is okay because it happens in first world countries too. What is wrong with you? The crime stats for South Africa are some of the highest in the world. The comment was perfectly valid.

I had a look and it seems mostly social crimes – in Cape Town there are regular hijackings on services like Uber or Taxify, Golden Arrow busses; yesterday it was the Blue Route Mall’s turn to have an armed gang invade and rob a jeweller – the fifth I think since June. Shots fired in the parking area. Tourists don’t usually head into the townships but there were over 40 murders a couple of weekends ago.

There’s no comparison.

All countries have crime. It’s all about the level of crime. At the moment on the numbeo crime index there are exactly 2 countries with a worse index than South Africa, Venezuela and Papua New Guinea.

So i guess at least we can compete for their tourists.

@ beachcomber: “Tourists don’t usually head into the townships but there were over 40 murders a couple of weekends ago.”

Many townships, including Gugulethu in Cape Town, are popular tourist destinations with tourist buses going there daily to take tourists to enjoy an African experience, food, music, etc
However, more recently according to media reports, the tour operators feel unsafe – also in Bokaap – and worry about the safety of their passengers. Criminal youngsters, tsotsies, (not the average township law-abiding citizen) are now pelting these buses with stones, so the tourists don’t disembark from the buses any more. What a loss to township businesses like restaurants, guesthouses, street sellers, etc

@ Saibotkram. So if someone else make reference to crime it is a fact because it happens in SA. If I mention crime in Aus I am endorsing crime.
Love the logic Mark. Keep going.

Just pointing you that crime is a fact of life wherever you live and that commentators should not be hypocritical.(Yes, getting gatvol of expats trolling SA sites, all smug).
But you can deduct any message you want from my comment if you wear tainted glasses.

As 1652TaxDodger said, tourists will rather travel to the Caribbean where there is probably no crime. Yeah right.

In Cape Town where children and pregnant women on the Flats (poor coloured areas) killings make up over 40 per weekend, and where the military has now been called in to help the police fight drug gangs, it’s not possible to say “crime is a fact of life!”
Calling it “a fact of life” implies acceptance.

Dear Suren-Sure the rain will help agriculture-but tourism? The weakening rand will do that for a while. More important is to get the message out that a tourist can take a walk on Chapmans Peak without being slaughtered by a frenzied animal for a 20 USD phone. With the present leadership of SAPS and the hopeless justice system surely its a better deal to go to a destination where such barbarity is the exception rather than common practice?

And yet the DA still has water restrictions imposed with raised tariffs.

Hence why I no longer vote for these clowns.

Water is still a scarce resource and needs to be conserved. Also, the city needs to be ready when the next drought hits. Extra revenue will be needed to provide more water for a growing city and economy – probably through desalination plants. So yes, still restrictions and raised tariffs. Think more carefully about who deserves your vote and why.

@Sparkie: restrictions are needed, so that you don’t leave the hose pipe full open (after washing the car) with water running off down driveway, while you polish vehicle 😉

International Tourist = Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe etc
very few from the UK +- 32K, USA +-25k p/a!!!
don’t be fooled by all this talk!!!
cape town is dying – people are emigrating en masse!!!

The higher dam levels is proof of a great DA turnaround strategy.

(Back in 2017, closer to “day zero”, the DA was lambasted for it’s handling of the drought, many accusing the DA for low dam levels, as if they control the weather).

Also thank you to the capable DA for arranging the “Cape Doctor” keeping air quality acceptable, unlike some parts of the ANC-controlled country suffering under high sulphur-dioxide levels (as recently reported).

Agriculture is such a key economic sector and seeing photos of Theewaterskloof Dam in Overberg almost bursting its banks, compared to those photos a year ago which showed the dam floor cracking up in the scorching sun, is an unforgettable site. One’s heart goes out to those farmers in a few far-away places in the Eastern Cape who are still awaiting rain.

End of comments.





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