Cape water crisis: City reduces swimming pool access for summer

Cape Town - With level 5 water restrictions firmly in place, the City of Cape Town’s Recreation and Parks Department is reducing the number of public swimming pools that will open for business this summer, due to the current drought crisis.

The City of Cape Town reports that it is required to find a balance between compliance and providing quality amenities during summer.

Although the province as whole is ready to welcome two million more international tourists in the upcoming peak season, a decision has been made to open only 12 of the 35 municipal swimming pools during the peak summer season. These facilities are distributed across the city to ensure equitable access. 

SEE: Cape's water crisis won't stem international travel growth

Swimming pools in Atlantis, Strand, Blue Downs Indoor, Khayelitsha, Bellville, Vulindlela, Retreat, Mnandi, Eastridge, Kensington and Hanover Park will be opened from 1 December 2017 until 31 January 2018, between 10:00 and 16:00 daily.

The Sea Point swimming pool uses seawater and will thus be open from 1 November between 07:00 and 19:00 daily during summer. - See full list of the City’s tidal pools here. 

"Careful consideration went into selecting these facilities as they are easily accessible or located on a transport route. All of them have a maximum capacity of over 500 patrons and are equally represented across the four areas of the city," says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member, Alderman JP Smith. 

Smith says the goal is to ensure that the swimming pools are open as often and as long as possible.

"However, we must remind users that given the expected high usage of these swimming pools over the period in question, operating hours will need to be adjusted from time to time in order to ensure that water quality remains at an optimum level. These changes will be communicated to the public via our website and social media channels," he says. 

The City says it will permit the opening of swimming pools for special events and competitions, however, this will require an application to the area managers to ensure that such usage will still allow the department to conform with the requirements of the water restrictions.

SEE: Cape Water Crisis: 9 ways this hotel reduced its YOY consumption by 17%

"All water from the swimming pools will be stored, treated, and reused and any water lost through evaporation will be replaced with water from the surrounding pools that will remain closed this season," says the City.

'Recycled water will ensure that no water is wasted'

The use of recycled water, along with the reduced operating hours, will ensure that no water is wasted and that no drinking water is used to top up swimming pools, in line with Level 5 restrictions, but also with the Organisational Development and Transformation Plan which aims optimise resource efficiency and promote innovative practices and technologies.

In addition, the City says showers at all public amenities and ablutions will be switched off and waterless hand sanitisers will be provided at most public washrooms. 

Some potential medium-to-long-term considerations to ensure that all swimming pools can be opened in future summer seasons include using pool covers where possible, alternative water sources, and recycling of non-potable water. 

Converting some of the pools to seawater usage remains an option, although it is quite a costly exercise given the infrastructure required, says the City. 

According to the City, this is all part of the New Normal in City operations and is a reflection of the wider New Normal scenario in Cape Town. 

The New Normal emphasises that Cape Town is in a water-scarce region and all residents, businesses and other partners must adapt to this scenario which looks at how to become a more resilient city in future. The immediate demands of the extreme drought, however, necessitate a massive reduction in water consumption. 

SEE: Water Crisis: Cape Hotels forced to get innovative

'Harsh summer ahead'

While Cape Town is expecting a harsh summer ahead, the City says it is doing everything in its power to ensure that Cape Town gets through as much of the summer as possible. 

"While we have a limited number of swimming pools available for the coming season, the City also manages a number of beaches and tidal pools and we encourage the public to make use of these facilities, some of which have retained their Blue Flag status for a number of years," adds Smith. "Our lifeguards and enforcement services will be on hand to ensure the safety of beachgoers."

NOTE: The City calls on all Capetonians to do everything that they can to reduce consumption now, to mobilise their own businesses and communities to save more water, and to support the City in its drought interventions. 

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