‘Doomsday’ Zero

Taps will run dry in Cape Town if residents do not do their bit to save water. Residents are urged to avoid Day Zero by decreasing their water usage.

Cape Town residents must make every effort to save water.

The City of Cape Town has announced that Day Zero which was likely to be on Saturday April 21 has now been moved to Thursday April 12.

On this day the city’s water supply will be turned off. Residents will have to queue to collect an allocation of water at designated points.

But even as we face this bleak future, not enough water is being saved.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said more than half of Cape Town residents have disregarded the water saving measures despite several months of intense campaigning.

“Despite our urging for months, 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day. It is quite unbelievable that the majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero,” said Ms De Lille.

The mayor said residents seem to be sceptical about Day Zero or think the City’s seven augmentation projects – set to produce around 200 million litres a day – will be enough.

“This is not the case and, while our water augmentation programme will make Cape Town more water resilient in the future, it was never going to be enough to stop Day Zero. The crisis has reached a new severity, necessitating a series of new emergency measures,” said Ms De Lille.

These include a punitive tariff, level 6B restrictions and advanced Day Zero preparation.

The punitive tariffs will mean residents will be charged exponentially more for water usage above 6 000 litres a month. Households and businesses that use 6 000 litres of water a month will be charged R145.98 instead of the current R28.44. Those who use 10 500 litres will be charged R390.82 instead of R109.50.

Provision will be made for households with more than four people to ensure that they are not unfairly penalised.

Residents are urged to contact the City beforehand on water@capetown.gov.za or enquire at their nearest walk-in centre.

The level 6B restrictions, which start in February, with a limit of 50 litres a person a day instead of the current 87 litres a person a day, will hopefully make up for the many months of missing the 500 million litre a day collective consumption target.

The new daily collective target will be 450 million litres a day, and this will be in place for 150 days after which the City will reassess the situation.

Level 6B restrictions will also limit irrigation using water from boreholes and wellpoints.

The advanced Day Zero preparation includes 200 sites being assessed as water collection points. These will be announced from next week so that communities can begin preparing for that eventuality.

Grassy Park resident Gladys Fortune said she is well aware of the water restrictions and wished people would take them seriously.

“I was always very water wise even before these water issues. I always showered with a bucket and collected rainwater to wash the cars and water the lawn and plants. It’s a shame that it had to get to this point. People were warned that Cape Town would run out of water but I have seen people blatantly wasting water and they don’t have any regard for a very serious situation. The day we have to queue for water is going to be a sad day,” said Ms Fortune.

Shaun Mentor from Military Heights said saving water isn’t high on their priority list.

“We are living in an informal settlement and every day we struggle to keep our heads above water just to stay alive. We are more worried about other issues like where our next meal is coming from,” said Mr Mentor.

He said his family and many others in the area don’t use a lot of water.

“I have two 25-litre containers and a few buckets which we fill with water for the day. That’s less than the allocated amount for one person per day and we are five people,” said the father of two.

Mark Solomons, chairperson of the Retreat/Steenberg Civic Association, said the association has been sharing water saving information with residents.

“Although we are hoping and praying for rain, we are also preparing and will get together to discuss and strategise for the worst which would be Day Zero. Our main concern is also services and how this will affect residents but we’ll discuss that at our next civic meeting,” said Mr Solomons.

He implored residents who do not believe that there is a water shortage to start saving immediately.

“People who think that there is no drought are very irresponsible. There is a crisis. Do not take it lightly,” said Mr Solomons.

Retreat community leader Aubrey Robinson highlighted who he thinks are the water wasters. “All ratepayers who fall in that bracket of property valuation R400 000 and above are saving water. It’s most of the groups below that bracket who are not playing their part and then there’s the City itself who are taking days and in certain incidents weeks to fix water leaks.

“The whole water crisis will affect the poor less than the ones who will be penalised for using more than the average,” he said.

Lavender Hill community leader Lucinda Evans, who is also the head of the Mitchell’s Plain Cluster Community Police Forum, has many unanswered questions about the effects of the water crisis.

“With Day Zero looming have we thought about how this will affect the marginalised communities, especially our children living in informal settlements when those taps dry up?

“Have we thought about how it will affect our children’s education with the possibility of schools closing. I witnessed families collecting water last night at 9pm in St James and I was left wondering, when looking at the babies in their pyjamas, what do our children think? What fear is in their hearts and mind? What do we say to our children about the water crisis? Have we, as families, started our own disaster ‘dry run’ preparations? Do we think about these things? Do families in settlements think of these things?” Ms Evans wondered.

Blue Route Mall spokesperson, Grant Elliot, said they are strictly managing water at the property.

“Natural disasters can be a catalyst for change, and this drought has been no exception. The drought has raised awareness and we have seen tenants and shoppers alike contributing to efforts to manage consumption.

“From a mall perspective we are also educating shoppers and employees in a bid to encourage water savings, both at work and at home. As hard as it is to endure, the drought has provided us with important lessons on how we manage water in the future,” said Mr Elliot.

He said the mall management would continue to invest in groundwater and surface storage as well as expand the use of recycled wastewater.

Ms De Lille encouraged residents to save as much

water as possible. “The time to act for everyone’s sake is now. So if we reduce the demand enough now, we can still get our water delivered to our houses and not have to queue daily for our allocation,” she said.

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