Capetonians willing to save even more water, survey shows

2018-06-26 20:01


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An astonishing 82% of Cape Town households already in the grip of stringent water restrictions said they would be willing to save even more water – but only under certain circumstances, a survey has revealed.

The two most commonly cited circumstances were if the government were to "make more effort to solve the drought" problem (48%) and if householders had better water-saving technology in their homes (48%).

The preliminary results of the survey, conducted by the non-profit Global Water Leaders Group, were presented at the Water Institute of South Africa 2018 international conference in Cape Town by the organisation's secretary general, Samantha Yates.

Yates said the response from Capetonians – that they were prepared to save even more water than they already were – had been surprising.

"My first reaction was: 'What more can you save on 50 litres a person a day?' I think it is a really encouraging result," Yates said.

The third most commonly cited reason for saving more (28%) was if water bills increased with increased consumption.

Climate change of most concern

Yates said the survey indicated that most households believed in paying for water services (86%).

When asked if anything would make them pay more for water, 64% said no and 36% said yes.

"Of the 36% of households that would consider paying more for water, the major driving factors were the assurance of water cleanliness (48%), and if the water provider was 'better at looking after the environment (42%)," Yates said.

Some of the reasons for raising the issue of water cleanliness, she said, were proposals to reuse Cape Town's treated waste water and hoaxes disseminated via WhatsApp during the height of the drought.

The survey asked respondents what in their opinion was the main cause of the Cape Town drought, offering them a choice of eight causes. Most chose climate change (36%), followed by the authorities' late investment in drought-resistant water sources (34%). Other reasons selected were population growth (10%), corruption that undermined investment (4%), limited government resources and capacity (4%), pipe leaks (2%), water misallocation (2%), and low voluntary household action (2%). Six percent listed "other" reasons.

Yates said one of the main messages to come out of the household survey was the extent to which Capetonians were engaged with the water issue – yet they were still thirsty for more information.

Communication and infrastructure

"Households were very proud of their efforts – and so they should be because they pushed back Day Zero to 2019.

"But now is the time to change the community mindset from crisis mode to long-term solutions. The survey showed that a lot of people are willing to save more water, and some even willing to pay more under the right circumstances," Yates said.

The success of doing this depended on the ability of the authorities to communicate the issue in a creative way, she said.

"It's a combination of effective communication and infrastructure."

Some cities had opted to introduce humour to communicate information.

"One campaign about reusing sewage effluent as a water source had the slogan: 'Your number 2 is my number 1'."

She said as the results were preliminary she did not yet have the number of respondents that had taken part in the survey. 

Yates said the Global Water Leaders Group was willing to share its results with anyone interested, including the City of Cape Town or other authorities.

"Our purpose is altruistic. We want to connect cities on water issues so that they don't reinvent the wheel."

Read more on:    cape town  |  drought  |  water crisis  |  water

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