Cape Town Banks on Late Winter Rains to Avert Water Restrictions

Cape Town, South Africa’s second-largest city and top tourist region, is banking on late winter rains to refill its half-empty dams and stave off water restrictions.

The six main dams that supply almost all of the coastal city’s needs are on average 54 percent full, down from 98 percent a year ago.

“We won’t have a clearer picture on water levels until the end of winter” in late August, city spokesman Simon Maytham said by phone on Friday. “We are not at panic stations yet.”

The Western Cape is one of South Africa’s most water-stressed regions and unlike the rest of the country it gets the bulk of its rainfall in winter. The province is a major wine and wheat producer. Durban, on the east coast, started water rationing this month to stave off a shortage, while a drought in other parts of the country has cut the corn crop.

“The winter rainfall season was about two weeks late this year,” Carl Opperman, chief executive officer of farming group Agri Wes-Cape, said by e-mail. “We are not as comfortable as we were this time last year. Heavier showers are needed.”

The South African Weather Service said rain in Cape Town on Friday may last through the weekend.