June 11, 2018 / 3:50 PM / 8 days ago

Winter rains ease Cape Town's historic drought as dams fill up

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Steady winter rains over the last week have substantially eased Cape Town’s worst drought in a century, replenishing reservoirs for the western Cape region of South Africa to levels well above last year’s, officials said on Monday.

Dam levels have risen to 31.5 percent as of this week compared with just 21 percent the same time a year ago, said Rashid Khan, regional head at the water and sanitation department.

The drought has ravaged crops, hit tourist numbers and forced changes to consumption habits in Cape Town and surrounding areas as mandatory water restrictions were implemented.

But Khan said the region was not out of the woods yet.

“We urge water users - domestic and industries - to continue using water sparingly,” he said, adding that it was too soon to ease a limit of 50 liters a day for domestic users, which has helped to halve consumption since 2016.

Cape Town, which has some 4 million inhabitants, gets most of its tap water from dams filled mainly with rainwater.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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