Big business moves to meet Cape water crisis demands

Cape Town - Big companies are finding new ways to save water and make products that need less water to use, according to Myriam Sidibe who is on the board of Water Aid and a hygiene director with Unilever.

Speaking at a World Water Day launch in Cape Town on Thursday, Sidibe said it can no longer be business as usual, citing laundry and personal hygiene as the biggest water guzzlers in households respectively.

Unilever is responding to the challenge by working on products that require less water to use, or need no water at all - such as waterless shampoo, and washing powder that needs less water.

"We are changing, but it is not something we can do overnight," said Sidibe.

Coca-Cola has slashed water use by 30% and is donating 500 000 litres of water to reduce the impact on communities in the Western Cape, according to public affairs and communications director Tshidi Ramogase.

The drought in the province has been declared a national disaster, with residents in Cape Town required to reduce usage to 50 litres of water per day.

Although Day Zero - when the taps will run dry and water will be rationed to a daily 25 litres per person - has been moved to 2019, city officials are imploring residents to continue water saving to keep Day Zero at bay.

In the meantime, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has set aside R433m to combat the drought, with R163m destined for the Western Cape.

In another initiative, Enactus CEO Letitia De Wet said groups of smart young minds at universities are working on innovations that could lead to an even bigger drop in the amount of water being wasted. Among these are treating grey water to be used in showers and water catchment innovations.

Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau pointed out that the upside of the prolonged drought is that it has brought water management to the fore.

People are more aware of illegal water abstraction and staying within the water usage limits.

Company representatives at the event also announced that rainwater harvesting tanks with a 5 000 litre capacity would be donated to 35 schools to help them conserve water.

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