Businesses must share blame

Thomas Johnson, Lansdowne

I read councillor Mark Kleinschmidt’s letter (“Water crisis”, Tatler, January 19).

Dam levels have dropped to 42.5 percent, which is very worrying.

The City’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg, said restrictions will be strengthened.

Water restrictions, now at Level 3, are almost exclusively concerned with domestic recreational use – gardens, around the house, pools and cars, etc.

In other words, to the City’s thinking, by not following restrictions, ordinary households are solely responsible for dam levels dipping from 51.2 percent to 42.5 percent in the past month (what about evaporation?) and increased consumption from 859 to 890 million litres a week.

This is irrational and probably false.

How can they say with 100 percent certainty that residents are responsible?

If we assume a slight majority of households – those who had previously watered their gardens, hosed their cars, etc – are obeying restrictions by using less city water than before, then according to the City, a minority have doubled their consumption, ie, inadvertently and opportunistically they’re making up for responsible citizens’ abstention thereby causing weekly overall consumption to rise 31 million litres.

This is preposterous and can’t be true. No, I think they have a convenient whipping boy – households.

We reduced our consumption about 30 percent compared to the same period last year, and that includes judiciously watering our large garden and using grey water thereon.

In-house consumption has remained about the same, but we’re aware we must conserve.

My point is if the majority of households are doing this, why is water consumption not dropping? It must be other consumers – commerce, retail, hospitality, factories, workshops and government.

Our daily average consumption is 0.852kl for a big household and garden, which I said has been drastically reduced. But what is the consumption of shopping malls?

What is the consumption of hotels where tourists, just back from a day at the beach, up Table Mountain, have long showers before going to dinner, then return for another long shower before bed, unaware or unconcerned about the dams?

Has government, a huge user of municipal resources (and notoriously slow payer) cut back?

What about factories? How much water, if any, has the civic centre – Limberg, Kleinschmidt and colleagues – conserved over the past weeks and months?

Have they all “got the memo”?

Now the City wants to implement stricter regulations on you and I for watering out little patch of residential heaven, but exempts old age homes, nurseries, sports fields and the very large users above.

A couple of weeks ago at midday, with the sun blazing, Kenilworth Racecourse’s sprinklers were going full blast. Did the City check if they have bore holes?

Surely all golf courses don’t have bore holes or use grey/brown water.

I don’t want to be critical of the City, but households can’t solely bear the burden of conservation.

I’d like to think most are already co-operating, but doubt the mega-users are. With dams reaching 40 percent new restrictions must be applied across the board similar to load shedding that affected everyone alike.

But please don’t unfairly and irrationally blame households for a severe problem that’s not only their doing.