Water-saving efforts should not dry up

Xanthea Limberg talking about Cape Town's water and energy future.

Cape Town might have dodged a drought disaster, but we can’t go back to our water-wasting ways, City officials told business heavyweights at a meeting in Pinelands last week.

At the meeting in Mutual Park, City water and energy officials, including Mayco member for informal settlements, water and waste services, Xanthea Limberg, spoke to business representatives about how a future Cape Town would need to be clean and green.

Companies at the meeting included Old Mutual, Virgin Active, Growthpoint Properties and Woolworths.

The city had survived its worst drought in living memory, with its feeder dams now at just under 70% full, but it was more important than ever for business to invest in greater water efficiency for the future, Ms Limberg said.

“We must use this opportunity to plan for the worst-case scenario, and we must ensure that we are not in a situation where we are entirely dependent on rainfall because we have now learned the severity of what that means and we have been given relief of the rainfall to plan for the future.”

Nokuzola Mhlungu, from the City’s water services department, said the 2018 Water Amendment By-law gave the City more muscle to safeguard its water supply.

Among other things, the by-law says a property owner must notify the City when installing or changing solar hot water panels and heat pumps; an industry-approved mechanism must be installed to prevent cross contamination on properties with municipal and alternative water supplies; and property managers are responsible for monitoring each tenant’s water usage in group-housing schemes, such as blocks of flats, and reporting wastage to the City within 21 days of learning about it.

But it’s not just about saving water, the meeting heard. City energy officials said Cape Town also had to cut carbon emissions.

Head of the City’s energy directorate, Sarah Ward, said they wanted to see a 13% cut in carbon emissions by 2020, and 37% by 2040.

Cape Town, along with the Johannesburg, Tshwane and eThekwini metros, had committed to those reductions following the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2016.

Ms Ward said there had been a growth in rooftop photovoltaic (PV), solar panels on both homes and businesses. But with more than 780 illegal rooftop PV installations in the city, it was important for property owners to follow the correct procedure. All rooftop PVs needed municipal approval, because illegal installations could be hazardous, she said.

Manfred Braune, managing executive of the Green Building Council of South Africa(GBCSA), said400 buildings had been certified by the GBCSA since 2009.

Megan Euston-Brown, from Sustainable Energy Africa, a non-profit, said accelerated policy development was needed to ensure all new buildings work towards net zero carbon performance.

Virgin Active managing director Ross Faragher-Thomas said they were still committed to saving water. They had closed steam rooms and saunas to cut water consumption by 660 000 litres a month, but would revisit that now that the City intended easing water restrictions to Level 5 from October 1. “They have completed 12 potential boreholes, and drilled six,” Mr Faragher-Thomas said.

Wesley Noble, head of business at Virgin Active, said: ““We have a rollout plan for at least 40 health clubs to target net zero carbon, which will mean lowering energy consumption as much as possible and using renewable energy to generate the power needed for the clubs.”

Ms Limberg said the City was committed to building a “more secure, cleaner and affordable-energy future”.