Towards #DayZero – Cape Town’s Water Crisis

When I arrived in Cape Town I was told of a pending issue with the water, “It may run out next year” they said. Many people said this most probably wouldn’t happen, and all sorts of stories about how the government had failed to plan, as 3 years of declining water and inadequate rains were still not seen as a serious warning sign. No work was being done to award proper desalination plants, alternate supply was not being worked on, and it was more a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Since then, we have been through increased restrictions from 87 Litres per day when I arrived, with 2 minute showers the talk of the town, but this has since dropped to 50 litres per day as of 1st Feb 2018, and will decrease to 25 Litres per day should Day Zero arrive. Day Zero is the date when the government will effectively turn off the taps and people will have to line up at some 200 water collection points around town for a daily allowance, with full army and police guards to maintain some sense of sanity!

“The bottom line is ‘this shit is getting real’ and has been for some time.”

The sad reality is more than half the population have not changed usage habits, where the others are going to extreme measures. Many social media groups were born, with tips and posts on what people are doing, from collecting all grey water for toilet flushing, bricks in cisterns, buying bottled water (which is in scarcity due to panic buying), re-routing all in home appliances to grey water only, implementing one toilet flush per day, showering with garden weed spray bottles and camping showers on 2-3 lts each wash, or not showering and using the old fashions pat down method with sanitisers, to name a few.

Living through this has changed my own personal habits substantially.

  • When I shower its a short blast to get wet, then off the tap, soap up and on again to quickly rinse.
  • Toilet is not flushed or when it is, with grey water collects from any shower wasted (collected) water.
  • Dish washing is limited (thats why I don’t cook at home- my excuse to eat out).
  • Cloth washing also limited to absolute necessity, or clothes soaked in grey water and rinsed out if possible to avoid using washing machine
  • As for dishwasher – it has never been used at all.

From a work perspective we have made major changes and implemented to our stores to help do our part. Water usage has been reviewed and many changes:

  • Dish-wash processes amended and water usage reduced 75%
  • Toilets closed to public and sanitiser installed for hygiene, or one toilet on grey water one and all hand sinks and toilets shut off.
  • All grey water collected and re-used
  • Bottled water sourced for food prep and sanitation, and for staff use if needed.
  • Tanks installed for bore / spring based water from outside Cape Town should day zero arise
  • Water limiters placed on any tap
  • Daily water use per store down to well below 100 litres whilst maintaining quality and hygiene standards.

This thing is getting real. There has been some movement, all be it late by government to add water from temporary desalination with 5-10 million litres per day being made, but the fact is the usage target on 50 litres/ day is 450 million litres…you do the math!

The only saviour (unless there is some magic bullet up the authorities sleeve) is rain….and it is not showing signs of coming.

On a personal level I have been lucky and will be lucky over the next month, as I have spent a week in Nigeria (had such good, long showers and baths!), and will only spend a day in Cape Town before hitting the US for 2 weeks, then another 2 days in Cape Town before coming back to Australia….My worry is what will I come back to…but at least I will be helping in NOT using any water while away.

My water storage tactics include me having a total of 3 x 1.5 lt bottles in my home….so may get interesting, especially if the ongoing panic buying lets up…let alone how do people line up for water, whilst having to work….

Let’s pray for rain soon for Cape Town’s sake!

#DefeatDayZero #DayZero #CPTWaterCrisis


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