Water worries

Dams supplying Cape Town with water could be as low as 20% come winter should current consumption continue unabated, the City of Cape Town has warned.

The City is also considering implementing tougher water restrictions, increasing them from Level 3 to Level 3b. Should the motion be approved by full council this week the new water restrictions will come into play from February 1.

According to various media reports, dam levels in the Western Cape have already dropped to below 40 percent combined.

The City’s mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, CouncillorXanthea Limberg, said last week that they would also be engaging with residents about the restrictions. “So many of our residents have really gone above and beyond the call of duty to save water. They have been selfless and have been true water ambassadors for us.

“Sadly, this cannot be said about all of our residents and our water usage has been consistently above the target.
“We will continue to take action against these culprits and will target the city’s top 20 000 high water users – the majority of whom reside in formal areas of the metro.

“We are committed to bringing this group to book. They are scuppering all of our efforts to bring down water usage.
“Within the next week, we plan to conduct increased door-to-door visits, issue more fines where applicable, and focus strongly on education and awareness,” said Ms Limberg.

“We’ll work together with our peace officers, law enforcement officers, councillors, and our newly appointed area-based mayoral committee members,” said Ms Limberg.

The City said they would also be engaging with the Western Cape government and the national Government government at provincial and national levels to ensure that they assist with efforts to minimise water usage.

Ms Limberg added that if Level 3b restrictions were approved by council, then fines would range from R1 000 to R5 000 depending on the transgression, and would also escalate to R10 000 or possible jail time for serious and repeat offenders.
Since the Level 3 restrictions were implemented, she said, She said that since Since Level 3 restrictions were implemented, the following has been issued: 271 notices of contravention as well as three notices to appear in court had been issued in the areas covered by the Atlantic Sun distribution area.

Mayco member for Area North, Councillor Suzette Little said that as a result of the restrictions the City’s Recreation and Parks Department had ceased all turf irrigation that used potable water along the Mouille Point/ Sea Point promenade.

“Only the trees along the promenade will be watered using water tankers filled with non-potable water. With this instruction, the promenade’s lawns will turn brown and certain parts may even die off, but in the event of the restrictions being lifted after sufficient rainfall, the lawns will be returned to their former glory,” she said.

Jane Meyer, of the Mouille Point Ratepayers’ Association, said the organisation had not received any complaints about the watering of the promenade. She said, however, that the water restriction affected all residents.

“Water needs to be saved by all including by the City,” she said.

“We believe that the City should investigate ways of getting the millions of litres of fresh mountain water that flows into the ocean daily redirected to the promenade and other areas of need.”

She said all residents needed to be aware of how scarce water was and to use it sparingly.

Janine Myburgh, President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said the water crisis was a big wake up call for the City of Cape Town. She said the City should be desalinating sea water. “The technology we need is well developed and proven. The Middle East and particularly the desert countries depend on desalination for their water supply. They even produce enough water for golf courses.

“Another good example is Perth on the West Coast of Australia which has a similar climate to Cape Town, only it’s hotter. Perth produces roughly half its water by desalination. We don’t need a big expensive scheme to start with but we need to get going with a few trial schemes to build up the expertise. The chamber has been telling the City to get into desalination for years.”

Ms Myburgh said that althoughwhile there were long term solutions, it would not help with the current crisis. She said we all have to start using a lot less water. “There are lots of small things we can do, but they add up. One example is the water that goes down the drain while we wait for the hot water to start flowing. If everybody used a jug or a bucket to save this water to fill the kettle and the water bottle in the fridge, it would add up. We can shower instead of bathing and we can take shorter showers. There are lots of little things like this we can do and when 100 000 people do them we will save a lot of water.”

In response to the suggestions of desalinating sea water, Ms Limberg said: “We would caution against any suggestion that massive capital expenditure is the answer to the current drought conditions.

“Best practice is to protect potable water supplies through reduced consumption rather than increased production during times of low rainfall, as large capital projects will have the effect of pushing up the price of water to pay for the infrastructure, and may constitute wasteful expenditure when the drought breaks and our dams fill up.

“The occurrence and severity of droughts also cannot be predicted, and therefore building infrastructure in anticipation of a drought isn’t possible. The timing of the City’s future supply infrastructure, like building a desalination plant, is planned according to long-term population and water demand growth.”

Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism, said the drought and water restrictions had not yet resulted in a drop in the number of visitors to the city. However, he said, the water restrictions impacted the sector in various ways, “from tourism businesses with gardens having to adapt to being water-saving environments to potential interruption to the supply chain from the agricultural sector”.

Mr Duminy added: “We ask that tourism businesses and other businesses provide information about the water restrictions to visitors and that everyone works together to preserve water supplies. Responsible tourism is always of utmost importance; many tourism businesses have taken great lengths to become compliant with responsible tourism practices.”

Mr Duminy said that the city’s “Big Six” attractions, Robben Island, the Table Mountain Cableway, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Groot Constantia, the V&A Waterfront precincts and Cape Point are also involved in driving responsible tourism initiatives.

In 2014 the V&A won the WTM World Responsible Tourism Gold award, being named the Best Destination for Responsible Tourism.
Some of the conditions of the City’s proposed Level 3b water restrictions would include:

● No watering/irrigation within 48 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities or residents making use of boreholes, treated effluent water, spring water or well-points are not exempt.

● Vehicles or boats may not be washed with municipal drinking water. Vehicles and boats must be washed with non-potable water or washed at a commercial carwash. The Atlantic Sun asked the City if there were any plans for the desalination of sea water but they did not respond to the question by the time this edition went to print.