How Cape Town businesses are tightening the taps

Cape Town – As the countdown to Cape Town's dreaded Day Zero continues, ratepayers are not the only ones forced to tighten their belts when it comes to water use.

Businesses operating in what may soon become the first major city to run out of water have been implementing more large-scale water-saving measures in a bid to cut back on consumption to avoid the reality of most taps being turned off when storage reaches 13.5%.

Dam levels in the Western Cape are currently at 26.5% and Day Zero has been brought forward to April 12.

READ: A lot can happen before Day Zero – 5 things to watch

Here's how some Cape Town businesses and institutions are cutting back their water consumption:

Protea Hotels

Fancy a bath while staying in one of Cape Town's hotels? That will be virtually impossible if you're checked into a Protea Hotel.

The company has removed all its bath plugs from its rooms, making it virtually impossible for guests to have a soak in the tub amid the severe drought.

Protea Hotels senior regional director Sean Maher said apart from guests being advised on the crisis upon check-in, in welcome letters and other communication, all its swimming pools are covered, bottled water has been removed from rooms and waterless methods are being used for paving garages and outside areas.

Incoming water pressure has also been reduced, paper serviettes are used instead of linen and bedding is replaced only every third day.

Maher said the company is also in touch with city authorities regarding the water situation, and would co-operate with the city on any other measures. 

Pick n Pay 

Pick n Pay's group executive for strategy and corporate affairs, David North, said the supermarket chain was strongly focused on being water-wise and was encouraging its customers to also save water wherever they can as well.

"We are working hard with our landlords, and have put a number of measures in place. These include gaining access to groundwater, and some salt water desalination," he said.

"We have boreholes at some stores as well as equipment to reuse grey water. We are placing storage tanks at all affected stores and these will be filled from non-water-stressed areas in the event of Day Zero."

Food Lover's Market

Staff at Food Lover's Market's head office no longer have the luxury of opening the tap to wash their hands after ablutions – all bathroom taps have been completely shut off and replaced with hand sanitisers.

A spokesperson said inflow and pressure of water to toilets have also been reduced.

Buffer tanks with a filtration system are being installed at all stores in the province and the company will be purchasing water from suppliers to be brought into its branches every day.

In stores, staff are urged to use "best practice water conservation in all their activities across all departments".


After implementing water-saving measures in 2017, Media24 reduced consumption by 35% based on the City of Cape Town's targets at the time, its head of corporate communication Lea-Anne Moses said.

Measures included reduced air-conditioning operation hours and the repairing of leaks, decreased water pressure in basins, aerators on taps, and less water-intensive cleaning methods.  

"Media24's water crises task team are preparing a detailed Day Zero contingency plan which is still being finalised and will be communicated to all staff at the end of February," Moses said.

University of Cape Town

Contingency plans in the event of Day Zero are being discussed at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the institution had concluded a survey of water usage and was developing a detailed short- and medium-term plan in collaboration with the City of Cape Town.

"We are now also engaging with multiple stakeholders, and particularly the city, on how UCT could continue operations if Cape Town reached Day Zero. We are in the process of appointing a consulting company and added capacity to assist us in developing detailed contingency plans for UCT's response to Day Zero.

"This will include plans for different scenarios we might face... such as no water, restricted water supply, the use of alternative water sources, etc. This added strategic and technical capacity within the properties and services department will bring enhanced leadership and implementation related to ongoing water management on the campus."

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