Premier springs into action at SAB

A taste of Day Zero, queues and traffic congestion at Newlands spring.

With 77 days, left until Cape Town reaches Day Zero on April 12, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has taken control of the Cape water crisis.

Day Zero has been moved forward from the initial date of April 21.

After a management meeting at South African Brewery (SAB) on Monday January 22, she told the media she had written to President Jacob Zuma, requesting that he declare a national disaster and to assist in the management of Cape Town’s water crisis.

The National Disaster Management Act creates provision for a national disaster when more than one province is affected, or when additional resources are required to mitigate the national ramifications of a disaster.

The City of Cape Town is to put Level 6b water restrictions in place from Thursday February 1. The controversial drought levy has been scrapped but new water restrictions will require people to use 50 litres of water a day and there will be an increase in punitive tariffs for residents using above 6 000 litres a month.

Ms Zille warns of a logistical nightmare if Day Zero comes into effect, with thousands of Capetonians queueing at around 200 standpipes for daily water rations of 25 litres.

Before being replaced in her management of Cape Town’s water resources by deputy mayor Ian Nielsen and mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services and energy, Xanthea Limberg, mayor Patricia de Lille said: “Despite our urging for months, 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres a day. It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero.”

She said the City’s seven augmentation projects – set to produce around 200 million litres a day, making Cape Town more water resilient in the future – is not going to be enough to stop Day Zero.

Of the increased water tariff which was passed by a motion in council on Friday January 19, residents who use 6 000 litres of water a month will pay R145.98, up from R28.44.

The City’s media office said about 200 sites across the metropole were being assessed as water collection points would be announced during this week.

After visiting Newlands spring on Monday January 21 and a meeting with SAB management, Ms Zille gave a media briefing on Cape Town’s water crisis. She said SAB would help to get 9 million litres of excess spring water used for beer making to institutions like old age homes, hospitals, social services and to distribution points.

She said taps running dry had not happened to any other major city in the world. “Our back is against the wall. We need to change our behaviour,” she said of the 70% of the four million Capetonians who were not saving water.

Brewery manager John Stenslunde said the 9 million litres was little, when compared to the amount needed and people must not think this will save them from the taps running dry.

Mr Stenslunde said they would open the spring 24/7, but were also engaging with the City to facilitate safety, manage traffic and prevent theft.

Ms Zille said national disaster management teams and other role-players have been meeting regularly over the past year to prepare for Day Zero.

The Tatler spoke to people in queues at the Newlands spring. Carol Arendse, of Kenilworth, has been collecting water there for the past month. “After all, this is running away. Plans should be put in place to catch it.”

Ms Arendse said her household water consumption was low because they shower by getting wet, turning off the tap, soaping down and then rinsing.

They use washing machine water in the cistern and garden.

Paula Snyman of Wynberg said it was the fifth time that week she had visited the spring. The previous times she had returned home empty-handed because the queue was too long.

With four people in her home, she normally collects 25 litres of water once a week which is used for drinking and cooking.

Ms Snyman said her children, aged five and eight, were making the best of the situation and enjoyed sharing a (small) bathtub.

Other water-saving methods included reducing laundry from five or six a week to three loads, using greywater to flush when brown.

Her garden is dead and they will soon be using disposable plates and cutlery.

Patsy Bagraim of the City Bowl was hauling water in a plastic trolley. She said she needed 70 litres for a school feeding scheme at Good Hope Seminary School in Vredehoek where children from Grade 1 to 3 were provided with food and about 100ml each day.

“These are quintile 5 children who get up at 5.30am each morning to be bussed in to school and arrive hungry,” she said.

It was a first for Anton and Renee Voorn who came from Blouberg after hearing about the spring.

They are using water-saving methods including having a bottle in their toilet cistern which they only flush when brown, collecting rain water, recycling swimming pool water and not topping it up, re-wearing clothes and reducing laundry and one-and-a half minute showers.