How Cape Town plans to tackle water disaster

Cape Town – Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille on Wednesday released the city’s critical water shortages disaster plan, which would see phased rationing and saving, before a full-out disaster response.

The city also announced that it anticipated its supply of municipal water would run out around March 2018 if consumption was not reduced to 500 million litres of collective use per day.

The current collective water use stood at 618 million litres per day. As of Monday, October 2, the useable water left in dams stood at 27.6%.

De Lille said the plan to avoid acute water shortages had three phases. The city was already in the first phase.

She emphasised that the last two phases would be avoided, with progressive savings and rationing in the first phase.

"This extreme can only be avoided if we all do what we need to do now to save water."

Phase 1 (throttling):

Water rationing is to take place through extreme pressure reduction. This is to stretch the water supply in dams.

- Some areas will be affected by water supply disruptions for short periods of time;
- Water users will be asked to store up to five litres of municipal drinking water, only for essential use. Do not store excessive municipal water;
- Zoned outages likely to occur during peak water usage times in morning and evening;
- Definitive timetables of water outages will not be provided;
- Critical services (clinics and hospitals) will be largely unaffected.

Phase 2 (disaster):

Residents will be able to collect a predefined quantity of drinking water per person per day from collection points.

- City will more actively assume control of daily water supply;
- Many households and businesses will be unable to access drinking water in their homes and workplaces;
- High-density areas with increased risk of disease and fires, such as most informal settlements, would continue to receive drinking water through normal channels where possible. The same goes for strategic commercial areas and critical services such as hospitals;
- Sewage system will be maintained for health and infrastructure considerations;
- City law enforcement, SA Police Service and SA National Defence Force will be deployed to ensure general safety is maintained throughout the city.

Phase 3 (extreme disaster):

The city will no longer be able to draw water from dams and there is a limited time to supply water before a complete water system failure.

- Emphasis will be on minimising the impact on human life, dignity and property;
- Households and businesses will be unable to access drinking water in their homes and workplaces;
- Non-surface water supply from aquifers and springs will be for drinking only;
- City will distribute this drinking water to residents at distribution points;
- All safety and security parties will be deployed to ensure that general safety is maintained.

On Wednesday, De Lille met with Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and Western Cape Environmental Affairs MEC Anton Bredell to discuss the water crisis.

Raising budget adjustments

Mokonyane and her department offered their full support to Cape Town, said the city’s chief resilience officer, Craig Kesson.

She had apparently agreed to raise the issue of special provisions for budget adjustments with Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.

Kesson said Mokonyane had also agreed to speak with Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa about authorising an application by the city to access international funding mechanisms for water projects.

He warned that water tariffs were likely to be reviewed after extensive public participation, to fund provisional operating costs.

"The message needs to go out that we have not all, as individuals and businesses, been paying enough for water."

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