Keep calm and continue saving water

Keep calm and continue saving water

It was announced yesterday that Day Zero will in all likelihood be avoided this year. Lance Greyling, CTT board member and the City’s Director for Enterprise & Investment, shares the latest information on the water situation as well as valuable resources for continuing on the path of #WaterWiseTourism. – Enver Duminy, CEO: Cape Town Tourism

MESSAGE FROM LANCE GREYLING: DIRECTOR ENTERPRISE & INVESTMENT, CITY OF CAPE TOWN

First of all I would like to apologise for the delay in sending you my regular briefing on the Water Crisis. It was my intention to send this briefing out immediately after the updating of the weekly dashboard which occurs on a Tuesday afternoon and the announcement of the new date for Day Zero. Although the dashboard was updated last week the date for Day Zero wasn’t moved from the 9th of July and the accompanying press statement from the Deputy Mayor last week offered an indication that we were moving into a new approach in terms of communicating around Day Zero.

Past projections around Day Zero were more conservative, as they did not incorporate any unknown variables or factors outside the City’s control. These included, for example, the agricultural allocation coming to an end, and the effect of rainfall and evaporation on dam levels. The City is also now in a position to exercise greater control on the consumption side, with the increasing roll-out of pressure management and the installation of water management devices to limit the consumption of high users.

The dashboard was updated this week and it shows a bit of a mixed picture. On the positive side, dam levels have only dropped by 0.4 percent over the past week bringing dam levels down to 23,6 percent. Part of the reason for the decrease being so low over this past week is that the dam levels are still being boosted by the flow of donated water from the Groenland Water Users Association making its way into our dams. At this level of dam decrease, Day Zero has now been moved back once again to next year.

All of this is very positive and indicates a new found optimism that we should in all likelihood be able to avoid a Day Zero this year. The City of Cape Town is essentially at a pivot point, whereby we can now move out of the spectre of a looming Day Zero and into a more positive period of considering the medium to long term plans of building a water resilient future.

The difficulty going forward, however, is that the spectre of a Day Zero could loom again if we saw a sudden spike in consumption and it is therefore critical that we find the right balance of communicating with the broader public that both gives a more positive outlook on the situation while not jeopardising our need for continued water saving from all sectors of society. This danger is underlined by the one negative of this week’s dashboard and that is a slight increase in water consumption from 516 ML/d of the previous week to 537 ML/d for this past week.

It is absolutely imperative that everyone continues to save water not only to avoid the spectre of a Day Zero arising in this period again but also to ensure that in the event of bad rains this Winter Season that it doesn’t loom again next Summer. The bringing on line of substantial new water from our augmentation projects over the next 6 months however should provide us with a bit of a buffer for the next Summer season even if the rains are as bad as last year, which we certainly hope they aren’t. The graphs on the following link illustrate 3 different scenarios that we could face in the next Summer period. As this year’s Winter rainfall is still the big unknown variable, we will have to continue to drive down water consumption and for that reason level 6B water restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future along with the punitive water tariffs. Our demand side management tools like advanced pressure management and installation of water management devices for high use households will also continue to be employed. I cannot stress enough the importance of continuing to save water even when the rains start to fall. This is now about saving for the future and ensuring that our dams are given a chance to properly fill up again.

All of the indicators at this stage, however,  seem to be demonstrating that we might finally be able to move out of what has been a very intensive crisis mode for Cape Town, which has galvanised all of society into taking extreme actions to avoid the worst disaster we have ever been faced with as a city. The prospect of a looming Day Zero certainly focussed the mind and actions of Capetonians and led to an internationally unprecedented ramp up in water savings. An indication of this is that in only 3 years Cape Town has reduced its water consumption by more than half. In comparison, during its “Millennium Drought”, it took the city of Melbourne 12 years to achieve a similar percentage reduction. This information comes from a new research paper that Wesgro has completed benchmarking Cape Town’s water usage with other cities around the world in similar drought conditions.

I therefore firmly believe that all of Cape Town residents and our businesses can celebrate our joint achievement and that many other cities globally in a climate change era will look to learn lessons from our own experience. The adaptability of business in this era has been remarkable and I realise that some of your investments have come at a great cost. This investment has not only helped us avoid a disaster but has also laid the foundation for a far more water resilient city for the future.

Day Zero Planning

As Day Zero is not immediately looming we thankfully have more time to plan for the unlikely event of a Day Zero scenario. As stated previously even in a Day Zero scenario we are still committed to keeping our economy running and we are looking at ways in which we can keep on most if not all of the major economic nodes. I was hoping by now to be able to give certainty with regards to the exact locations in the City that will be kept on during a Day Zero scenario, but unfortunately this exercise has proven to be more complex than we originally anticipated. We are now having to overlay various factors such as socially vulnerable areas, critical infrastructure and areas of economic importance along with our Points of Distribution (PODs) while making sure that we stick within our 350 ML/d limit that Day Zero will impose upon us. Our senior legal counsel is also in the process of providing us with a comprehensive legal opinion as to a legally defensible process and set of criteria in weighing up all these issues.

I realise that businesses need this information for planning purposes but at this stage it is more important for us to get all of these issues and processes correct before starting to release it. I feel confident that we should be able to finalise all of this information by the end of March. Given that Day Zero has in all likelihood been pushed out for this year this delay will hopefully not be viewed as too disruptive for business planning. The message I continue to give businesses though is one of concentrating your business continuity efforts on investing in those technologies that will both bring down your water consumption in the short term while also proving to be good long term investments into water resilience. At this stage I would avoid specific investments that will only be utilised in a Day Zero scenario.

Finally I would like to once again thank all of you as valued stakeholders in helping us avert an immediate water disaster. We are still not in the clear yet, but we are definitely in a far more positive space than we were a couple of months ago. I think we can now all take a deep breath and then continue in our efforts to put in place measures to drive down consumption and build a more water resilient city.

Useful links and Information

For convenience we have set up a City Business Enquiry Service that will provide information on the City’s procedures and processes. If you need any assistance please contact business.support@capetown.gov.za

All tiers of government are actively responding to the drought crisis through restrictions, reducing their own consumption, awareness raising and augmenting water supply, amongst other interventions. For the latest updates please refer below:

  • City of Cape Town’s drought updates – updated weekly.
  • Western Cape Government drought page, including restrictions by municipality.
  • The Western Cape’s #WaterWiseTourism page.
  • Level 6b water restrictions came into effect from 1 February, with the following impact: • Residents to use 50 litres per day; across home, work, school or elsewhere.
  • Commercial properties need to reduce usage by 45% compared with the corresponding period in 2015 (pre-drought).
  • Agricultural users need to reduce usage by 60% compared with the corresponding period in 2015 (pre-drought). Full level 6b water restrictions guidelines, including new guidelines for borehole and well-point use.

PLEASE NOTE

RESOURCES TO HELP AVOID DAY ZERO

EVENTS

H2Know Summit and Expo for businesses, River Club in Observatory – 13 March 2018

Organised by the Cape Chamber of Commerce for their members, and non-member businesses welcome too. No charge to attend. Exhibition open 8 am – 2 pm, presentations from 9am – 1pm. Preregister online here. To exhibit contact Denise at denise@capechamber.co.za or 021 402 4300.

Drought crisis meeting for facilities managers – 20 March 2018

Facilities and Building Managers in Cape Town will be updated with drought crisis info and useful case studies, tools and support. They will share best practices on how to reduce water consumption by 45% to comply with current restrictions, and business continuity plans for Day Zero. Hosted by the City of Cape Town and SA Facilities Management Association (SAFMA) with support from Old Mutual, GreenCape and Western Cape Government.  9am – 11am. RSVP link here. For more: Business.Events@capetown.gov.za

Alternative water workshop for plumbers – 20 March

Workshop to discuss the practical implementation of alternative water system installations, including regulation and legislated requirements and technical aspects. 12pm – 2pm. No charge to attend. RSVP link here. For more: Business.Events@capetown.gov.za

STAY INFORMED

All drought-related information at www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater

Subscribe to Day Zero and drought-related information at www.capetown.gov.za/subscribe

PARTNER SITES AND RESOURCES

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) #WATERSHEDWEDNESDAY and the series of Wednesday Water Files

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