Cape Town housing expansion not linked to water crisis

2017-07-19 18:33
(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(File, Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Cape Town's water restrictions cannot be blamed on new housing projects popping up around the city, the city's mayoral committee member in charge of water and sanitation said.

"Despite our population growth almost doubling since 1996, our water demand remained relatively flat," said Xanthea Limberg in response to concerns about the impact that rampant development was having on the city's water supplies.

From a new shopping complex and residential estate near Sunningdale and Sandown in the north, to Tuesday's announcement that at least 10 inner-city sites had been earmarked for affordable housing, Cape Town's expansion is visible.

For starters, over 700 "affordable" houses have been proposed for Woodstock to help assuage an accommodation crisis as rents skyrocket.

All this has left some wondering whether there will be enough water for everybody as the city's population increases, regardless of the drought.

"It is important to differentiate the current supply constraints under extreme drought conditions which require imposition of water restrictions, from constraints caused by the inability of a water supply system to meet demands under normal climatic conditions," Limberg said.

READ: What Cape Town can learn from Windhoek on surviving droughts

Solutions

Dam storage levels are currently at 26.4% but only about 16.4% is usable, irrespective of the recent rain.

"Prior to the onset of the drought, the city was using water well under its registered allocation," said Limberg.

So the job for the city now is to get people to drop their usage to 87l a day, using water only for essentials like cooking, washing and drinking.

For some, the solution is simple and involves no more than catching shower water to be used for the garden or the toilet cistern.

For others, particularly those designing or renovating a home, it is also an opportunity to introduce some long-term water saving measures because, as Limberg pointed out earlier this week, "this is the new normal".

Renewable energy fundi Zeke Murphy, who is a sales director at an online eco-shop, recommends that one starts with the "low-hanging fruit" of showerheads and water aerators that are cheap and easy to install.

"That massive 'rain' showerhead that you simply had to have five years ago, can use up to 20l a minute," warned Murphy.

It should be replaced with a smaller showerhead that can almost halve the litres per minute that flow while waiting for the water to hit the right temperature.

These cost from around R100 upward and no plumber is required to change it.

READ: What is government doing about Cape Town's water crisis?

Older architecture

The same goes for water aerators, which can be screwed into your kitchen taps to reduce the amount of water flowing. These start at around R20 each and are easy to fit.

If you have had a windfall of between R5 000 to R10 000 and you want to invest it in water saving, you could splash out on a grey water system.

"As you are showering or let out the bath or washing machine - it fills up and pumps out to water your garden," Murphy explained.

One of the downsides of older architecture is that many service points are hidden with outlets in inconvenient places or inaccessible, perhaps even under concrete, said Murphy.

However, architects and new developers now have a great opportunity to change this, and should be placing the outlets in positions that will make it easy for a resident to build on some sort of water harvesting or water reusing device.

He said South African architects should be thinking on the level of Australia's dual water supply system, which runs clean water and grey water through new houses as a matter of course.

"Think on that level when you are doing a renovation or designing a new home so that you don't have to break through a wall and make a mess and re-tile a floor later," he advised.

He recommended that Capetonians introduce water-saving measures sooner rather than later, and to not let up when it rains.

When it is raining, a rain water diverter, which reroutes water to a water tank and filters it to clean out leaves and any other sediment, from about R800, should help build up a supply for the garden when it dries out again.

Advice

He added that water storage tankers are being made in different shapes and are perfect for storage under a deck if there is limited space.

Besides being a water-saving systems salesman, Murphy also has some advice for those with no budget:

  • Wear clothing items a few times, instead of just once and then throwing them in to the washing machine;
  • Watch that the resident teenager does not put clean outfits they have changed their mind about three times, into the laundry basket for a wash;
  • Set your geyser to 55 degrees Celsius, which is the perfect temperature for a shower. If you set it too hot, you waste cold water trying to get the temperature right;
  • Most water-saving measures are possible in complexes which have big roofs and communal spaces, but do not forget to get permission from the body corporate, fellow-residents and landlords;
  • Instead of using bath water to flush the loo, rather use the clean shower water collected at the beginning of your shower so that your loo does not smell of bacterial build up from the used bath water;
  • Rather put the bath water in the garden where the chemicals will be broken down in the soil.
Read more on:    cape town  |  drought  |  water

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