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Thoughts on Cape Town’s Day Zero…

Does anyone know what’s actually going on?
The Newlands municipal swimming pool in Cape Town has been shut. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Last year, thanks to a fibre contractor who could not read city plans, I faced 72 hours with no water. Fixing two large bursts was seemingly not a huge priority for Johannesburg Water, as it only affected two adjoining cul-de-sacs. A day is doable, two is a stretch. Three becomes a chore. I cannot imagine what weeks will feel like, lugging drums of water around the house, washing dishes with the barest minimum, letting laundry pile up.

This is the reality the whole of Cape Town faces. Except they can’t just go shower at gym on the way to work, like many middle class South Africans do when they’re faced with water interruptions. Until now, only four out of every ten households have managed to get their daily consumption to below 87 litres per person. And that already requires effort and discipline. From February 1, that threshold nearly halves to 50 litres. What will the compliance figure be then?

During last week, the city and its drought response team (where accountabilities and personnel were shuffled as part of the saga in which Mayor Patricia De Lille finds herself embroiled), lurched from “we may get through this and avoid Day Zero” to “we are past the point of no return”.

That this changed so suddenly and so emphatically is cause for great concern. I argued on Twitter last week that the water crisis was easily an emergency six months ago and that Cape Town had reached the point of no return three months ago.

Source: City of Cape Town Water Dashboard

Instead, we’ve had a city pleading almost apologetically with residents to “Think Water”. Those with the means have sunk boreholes and continue irrigating sprawling lawns and gardens (the thing about boreholes is that, during droughts, they dry up!). Many swimming pools remain full, particularly those on the Atlantic Seaboard, which I am willing to guess are not topped up from boreholes. Life for 200 000 households has continued as if there’s no risk of quite literally running out of water.

Any effective drought management strategy needs only one thing: a large-scale change in behaviour. That the City of Cape Town has only managed to get 40% of households under the daily target is an outright failure. Major cities have skirted running out of water during severe droughts by forcing down consumption (with the associated luck as far as rainfall is concerned). Recent examples include Australia’s high-profile Millennium drought, as well as those in Spain and California in the past decade-and-a-half. In 2007/2008, Barcelona (5.5 million people) faced as acute a situation as Cape Town does now (with just more than four million people).

The only way Cape Town escapes Day Zero, as Western Cape Premier Helen Zille made clear in her detailed update published on Daily Maverick on Monday, is if household consumption is further reduced and the city skirts the trigger when dam levels reach 13.5% of capacity. With an almighty effort, the city may yet avoid a scenario where taps are switched off and water starts being distributed at 200 points across the metro.

Source: City of Cape Town Water Dashboard

Why has it been left to the premier to provide this leadership?

And how did the city get here? Why has it not, like other metros, fitted every single offending household with a water management device. The eThekwini Municipality installed throttling devices (a small valve that substantially reduces water-flow) to great success in the northern regions of Durban a few years ago. In certain areas where that was not practical, it ran ‘water-shedding’ with water only available for a certain period each day. This forced water consumption downwards. Instead, there’s a chorus of polite pleas from a city seemingly fearful of offending this constituency.

And the city has hardly been harsh on businesses (it only started outlawing the use of potable water at car washes six months ago!). Businesses should’ve been forced to drive down water usage aggressively and – importantly – this should’ve been reported on transparently every month. Instead, commercial use (like residential use) remains mostly a black hole. There are a multitude of ways for businesses to use less water, without their viability being threatened.

Why has South African Breweries been the first – and, so far, only – corporate to “step up to the plate” to the province’s (not city’s!) call for help? There are a dozen other obvious contenders to help? Coca-Cola? Clover? Shoprite? Bakeries which have bread trucks stretching into every corner of the city and the province every day?

Why has there not been a weekly crisis meeting with senior involvement from the 100 largest businesses in Cape Town? And if the city had let the crisis get away from them as they so clearly have, why have the top employers in the metro not taken it upon themselves to lead an initiative such as this?

Its largely been ‘everyone for themselves’ and, by and large, calls were made at the very last moment by businesses to ensure they are largely self-sustainable. Tsogo Sun’s reverse osmosis and borehole plants at the majority of its Cape hotels will be in place before Day Zero, while Old Mutual’s waste water filtration plant at its Mutualpark campus should be completed in April. These are two high-profile examples, but why weren’t these decisions made a year ago.

All I’ve heard over the past six months from a number of well-placed people in Cape Town is a common refrain: no one knows what’s going on and no one knows what’s going to happen if it continues like this.

The mayor’s dire warning last week seems to have jolted people into action, with panic stockpiling of bottled drinking water gathering pace.

Cape Town will get through this, even though it may get a lot worse before things return to ‘normal’. The key will be to ensure long-term “resilience” (a word the politicians love) by firstly augmenting bulk supply from dams with other sources, and secondly by ensuring long-term demand curves remain as flat as they have been. Cape Town’s largely excelled at the latter, despite an explosion in population driven by semigration. But it’s almost completely ignored the former, and six of its first seven projects to secure water from alternative sources are behind schedule.

It cannot bank on an endless supply of water from dams, run by the wholly disinterested and possibly bankrupt Department of Water and Sanitation. Sure, there’ll be rain and there’ll be bulk water supply in years of plenty, but changing climate patterns has made rainfall very unpredictable. Cape Town is hurtling towards day zero, but other metros aren’t far behind. The crisis in Nelson Mandela Bay is as bad, and rainfall so far this summer in KwaZulu-Natal has not been promising. We easily forget how dire the situation was in Gauteng just 14 months ago. (Smaller cities, like Kimberley and Grahamstown, have endured far worse in recent years, but these were wholesale maintenance failures, not directly drought-related).

Cyril should add a plan to get South Africa to act like the water-scarce country it is (much like Botswana and Namibia to the north), to his already overflowing to-do list. Or else, very quickly, these large-scale crises will be the norm.

Hilton Tarrant works at immedia. He can still be contacted at

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My deepest tie to Cape Town is that a fair chunk of my wealth is managed/administered from there.

Could Moneyweb please do some checking into how the likes of Old Mutual, Sanlam, Allan Gray and Coronation are going to handle Day Zero, if it comes?

Apparently Allan Gray wanted to offer some of its extra water from its NEW desalination plant in the V&A waterfront to some of the surrounding businesses and the Mayor said NO
Maybe Zille at Provincial level and CR should get involved in some of these idiotic mayoral decisions being made against big business
Agreed also that Coke should come to the party and at some stage in March only produce water rather than Coke – as SAB are doing !!
Not yet one incentive from the city to add JoJo tanks etc !
Amazing when the Eskom crisis was around – there were plenty of incentives

The arrogant and smug Mayor has now been sidelined and it seems that people who actually understand the issues are in charge from what I hear on the radio.

No incentive s/be required…………..just use ones brains.

PERTH put in a desalination plant for R4bn, 250 million litres a day and cost to residents at R11 per kilolitre and electrified by wind turbines.
CAPE TOWN – why not a REVENUE bond for R4bn and we can have the same – problem solved – at least for 2019 maybe 2020 and beyond. (revenue from water users gets paid to bond holders before additional water gets bought from the National grid)
SO EASY !!!!!!

Dont even begin to compare Perth to Cape Town, who despite its self conferred mantra of being a ‘world class city’, is just another third world city with a shiny glitzy touristy area. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find a city where the majority live in squalor.

My recent visit simply confirmed what the article suggests – complete & utter failure by the DA govt to plan for this disaster. Most people I spoke to (middle class white) took pride in telling me that they continued to top up their pools & water their gardens at night time! How come ship based desalination plants weren’t hired ages ago? We are talking people dying of thirst in their own homes! No schools, universities etc etc. people just thought I was being my usual “stirrer”! However this is not a singular event – this is the future for my erstwhile city

Yup, on an earlier article a few days ago, I mentioned just that: the idea of ship based desalination plants (floating desalination production vessel, FDPV) within False bay supplying nearly Steenbas Dam. (..would also need pump-station/pipeline, etc). It’s costly….but what will be the ultimate cost to WC when no water? Can be based on temp contract with foreign provider, and when it rains from June (lets hope!) the contract can be ended / ship sails off to next customer.

You think anyone has a crystal ball when it comes to climate patterns? Cape Town was experiencing record rainfalls until two years ago according to Helen Zille who was interviewed on SAFm this morning. In the same interview she said that climatologists at South African Weather Service (SAWS) have told her that due to climate change their predictive models are now broken. In other words they have no idea what is going to happen with the weather. Everything we assumed we knew is no longer true.

yes, ditto the so-called climate experts at UCT.It’s always “maybe yes, but maybe not”.They’re also clueless about CT’s long-term weather forecasts.

When this first hit the headlines 6 months ago De Lille was interviewed on CapeTalk and brashly promised that there would be a desalinisation “boat” delivering 500m litres of fresh water a day. Bwahahahaha ……

Saffas do’nt share any sensitive info with ”the cockroach from down under”,
he will stab you in the back with it

@ Robertinsydney – First of all, how many white people did you speak to to make such a stupid generalising comment? I visited CT last month and everyone I spoke to was determined as hell to cut their consumption.

As for desalinisation ships, they do not exist. Google it! Pretty obvious you believe anything anyone tells you.

Your alarmist theory stinks of a sour faced racist expat who never go over the fact that he was turfed by the majority black government…back to Sydney you clown!

I have heard that Cape Town was offered a large de-desalination plant, and they only needed to buy the water at a cost similar to that of water from dams. This plant would have significantly increased the water availability for many years, but the deal was turned down due to the company not having the correct BEE credentials.

Yep – GrahamTek is the company, based in the Stand and involved in international plants in the Middle East. But somehow not good enough for Cape Town.

Lynne – do you know this for a fact or does “I have heard” mean that you are covering yourself because it might be fake news?
beachcomber – how do you know this is a fact rather than fake news.

@ Lynne – you are spot on. A world leader in desalinisation offered to build a 500 million liter per day plant to provide water to the city at about R11 a megaliter which is perfect as the council currently charges anywhere from R6 to R325 a megaliter. But they were turned down because the council wants to control the supply chain in its entirety as then it would not be caught out gouging the end user. This crisis could have been averted if it wasnt for a greedy self centered city council hell bent on milking the ratepayers for every cent.

RoB LoB LaW – I cannot take you seriously when you don’t know the difference between a kilolitre and a megalitre.

Lynne – There is no way that the cost could be anywhere near to dam water. Desalinated water is very capital intensive. According to some article, plant cost around 1 million USD per 1000 kilolitre per day capacity, so to provide the 500 000 kl required daily the investment would be over 5 billion Rand. It would be even higher in SA because there is no expertise locally, so an overseas company would be required to do it. Running costs are high, around 4 kWh electricity is required for each kilolitre. Who would put up the capital and where would the electricity come from? Please do not say from wind farms, they would add even more to the cost.

“Back in May in a detailed 9 000-word “white paper”, GrahamTek told the City it could deliver 100 million litres of desalinated water daily within four to six months, while simultaneously developing bulk infrastructure for larger, more permanent plants which, in 18 months, could provide up to 450 million litres a day, nearly two-thirds of Cape Town’s current requirements.

Steyn said the “final tender of just a few days ago is the first really potentially sensible one, offering tenderers the opportunity to choose their own site, and produce between 5 and 15 million litres a day”. “This last tender should have been the first.”

The earlier tenders were for a “Mickey Mouse” capacity of 2million litres a day, with a two-year pay-back period, which was “almost impossible, and very expensive”. “You don’t get bank finance for that period.””

“The Monwabisi and Strandfontein desalination plants will yield 7 million litres of water per day each.
The V&A Waterfront’s temporary desalination plant will generate 2 million litres of water daily from March.”

Step – The 2 desalination plants coming online cost 510 million Rand and they can produce less than 2 litres of water per person per day (7 million total according to an article I saw, not each). They will be shut down in 2 years time. In 2 years the total output will be 5 million kilolitres. This gives a capital cost of R100 per kilolitre produced during the entire life of the project, excluding electricity and labour cost during operation. Even if each could produce 7 million litres a day, the cost would be R50 per kl. I guess operational cost will be in the R20-R30 range, so you and I will pay through the nose for it. I would like to know how much GrahamTek was hoping to get for their 100 million litres a day plant and who and how would finance it. It is nice to write a “white paper” but when it comes to an actual tender the price would be totally different.

Small capacity desalination work out very expensive per cubic metre water, but if you look at bigger generation capacities, it becomes a lot more cheaper per cubic metre. It is interesting that these plants coming online are only temporary for 2 years, so the city has no long term plans to lower our dam dependence.

As for cost, in that article linked, GrahamTek outlined:
“It went on: “This document demonstrates that emergency capacity of 100 million litres per day can be provided within four to six months, growing to 450 million litres within 18 months.

“This document also demonstrates that the capacity does not come at an astronomical cost but is affordable at approximately R11.50 per cubic metre of potable water.”

“The company proposed a public-private partnership company in which the City owns the land and associated infrastructure and grants the use of the land and servitudes to the company.

“The funding is provided against a Water Treatment Agreement between the City and the public-private partnership company”, with a term of 25 years (the capital expenditure requirement being funded and recovered through the Water Purchase Agreement), after which the City will own 100% of the operating assets.”

The document says the estimated cost of providing the 450 million-litres-a-day “solutions” will be R8.5billion, based on a cost to the City of R11.50 per cubic metre of desalinated water.


200 water points is not enough. Expect riots and looting. Its gonna be very ugly.

Indeed, 20000 people per water point per day, not a workable solution.

Informal settlements will continue to be supplied as water runs to central taps anyway. Ostensibly the CBD will also be supplied to keep “business running”, quite what this includes is probably as much of a mystery to the city right now as it is to everyone else. City expects ±5000 people per water point…

To both Hilton & Moneychief…you’re both correct. Totally unworkable. The “opportunity cost” of standing in queues for most of day, losing a day’s earnings, can be changed into financing an “AWG” system.

Yes, these AWG’s are heavy on power consumption, plus they’re expensive. But equally so are motor cars. The wealthier part of population will spend say R300-R800K on a new car…almost without thinking (because it can be financed). A car is in essence an A-B transport mode. Now why are we hesitant to spend R30+ upwards on AWG system….to sustain LIFE? (and it purifies water as well). Get it financed / households to share the capital & running cost. Like an insurance policy.

South Africans, we need to change our mindset!! (Forget about showing off your car around the next social braai…rather brag about your AWG).

LOL – In the late seventies Pik Botha – the then foreign minister – was invited to speak to the UN about the greatest problem facing South Africa. Whilst everyone obviously expected a different speech he spent the allocated time outlying how water and its supply is the largest problem. This was also addressed by the building of dams.

The ANC has now been in power for 24 years – During this time 9 dams have been built 2 of which – (Braamhoek and Bedford dams) are part of the Ingula pumped storage scheme and does not supply water for consumption. So effectively only 7 dams were completed after 2004. 3 of those completed were already in project and construction phase!!!

In the previous 24 years SA built 77 dams – all for water storage and distribution.

So Hilton – what is the real problem here. The national government is solely responsible for the planning and construction of dam water infrastructure. Look what happened at ESCOM. Only a disaster got some action ne.

Note also that The greater Johannesburg area is the largest city in the world not situated on a major water area..

We are heading headlong into a disaster of major proportions and not a thing is being done about it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It seems fairly obvious that CT is a victim of very common human traits, to wit: people are a) endlessly selfish and b) nobody believes it will ever happen to them, ie there are no limits to self-delusion.

Witness the difficulty that climate change is real and happening NOW has had in gaining traction in the human psyche. Even when there is a very clear and obvious sign happening right under our noses, people still can’t grasp the reality and alter their behaviour accordingly.

Even though we now know that the oceans and our planet is being totally overwhelmed by our plastic waste, we sat the other day and watched as the vast majority of people shopping at Woolworths in a very upmarket suburb of Jo’burg, checked out using virgin plastic bags. I would say 10% of them brought their own reusable bags. So, is anyone surprised at Cape Town’s oblivious attitude to their own dilemma? It’s always someone else’s problem.

When will people learn? Your actions, your lifestyle, your indulgences all have consequences! Convenience comes with a price. Until we learn to treat our planet like one of our children, ie the most precious thing in our lives, things will get worse.

Well said Dr Gonzo. There are plenty more disasters on the horizon that we should be adjusting our habits to prevent, but the ‘tragedy of the commons’ prevails, and is made worse when the biggest consumers (the rich) are so divorced from the poor who consume the least yet suffer the most when disaster happens.

Too true Dr Gonzo. casper1 wisely states in his comment above “So Hilton – what is the real problem here. The national government is solely responsible for the planning and construction of dam water infrastructure. Look what happened at ESCOM. Only a disaster got some action ne.” Unfortunately we need to hit rock bottom (i.e. no water) before we all (citizens, government, Moneyweb commentators) will change our behaviour towards sustainable living.

Blaming those that live in the Atlantic Seaboard is getting tiresome. If you spent some time in the area you would see the large water trucks bringing water to pools & construction sites. You would notice how many people have tanks. I would guess that wealthier households have reduced their consumption the most as they have the means to pay for alternative water sources.

I would not place much reliance on the Cities number of households meeting the 87l per person target. Firstly, they assume 4 person households & secondly they rely on meter readings which are often not taken at 30 day intervals.

The residents in Cape Town have reduced their consumption compared to last Jan by 45%. An exceptional collective effort to be praised. During this time what has the DA done to augment supply?! Virtually nothing.

That any City built on an aquifer next to the coast should run out of water is a gross failing of government. Stop blaming the wealthy.

I’ve heard a lot of people describe desalination as the solution to these issues but from what I understand it is very expensive and energy-intensive. Also difficult to find sites for plants along the western cape coast. I would like to see someone in the media do a more thorough investigation of this industry. I have a feeling it is not as simple as it sounds.

The media do anything constructive? LOL

DA have been planning to build 30 000 houses on the Philippi Aquifer, which lies below the Philippi Horticultural Area (aka the Breadbasket of Cape Town).

Their incompetence and greed is beyong measure. They should be hauled before Courts and charged with gross negligence.

Well at least certain deniers on this fiorum are waking up to the fact that they are actually going to have to stand in queues for their measly 25l of water, every day, for the next few years.

Maybe they can take comfort in the fact that Cape Town is the “Best Run City In SA”, and the fact that the previous Mayor was voted “World’s Best Mayor” in 2009. Fake accolades if ever there were….

Semigrants to CT must be feeling like right bunch of plonkers now…..

It is counterproductive to blame city management. Cape Town’s population has increased by 30% in the last decade, like most major urban centres, because it offers the prospect of employment and a better life. This increased pressure on resources combined with two years straight of very little rain has created the crisis we see today. In many respects Cape Town is a victim of its own success — people have moved there because it is such an attractive city to live in. You say they should have planned ahead, but how exactly do you plan for an unprecedented event when you cant tell from one year to the next what the rainfall is going to be?

“Victim of their own success”…..tell me if you still believe in that Lie when you stand in that queue for water…

Cape Town was densified according the the DA’s political agenda, aka their Integrated Development Plan. Inter alia, it involved a symbiotic/corrupt relationship with developers (party funders no doubt) who densified Cape Tow to the Nth degree. Developments/densification should only have been allowed under strict control, including limiting densification, or forcing restriction on water useage per new residerntial unit built (via useage limiters).

The fact of the matter is that CoCT went full steam ahead densifying CT, knowing full well that dam infrastructure was not being increased. This is reckless at best, and grossly negligent at worst.

They can’t come now and blame the lack of rain or national Govt, this is BS. We had similar dam levels in 2003/4 but the population was 30-50% less than now.

Judging from comments I see on the watershedding Facebook page and chatting with CT residents, there is going to be a large swing away from voting DA in 2019.

Ironically, the semigrants may very well be living in an ANC-run WC province/city in 2019, plus still hving to wait in the long water queue ever day…..

Not sure that the wealthy patting themselves on the back for reducing consumption the most is very helpful. It may make those living on the Atlantic seaboard feel better though! Those living in informal settlements and sharing from a single tap are all living on less than 50 litres per person. When the peeps living in Bantry Bay can claim the same THEN that will be something to be proud of.

And if you take a drive around the Atlantic Seaboard you will see that this is about the only area supporting the building industry. And then take the rates which they are paying out of the City’s budget and the jobs which they create and Cape Town will be even more of a backwater which it used to be before this money started flowing in.

Just a thought re SAB’s seemingly generous act: I understand that the SAB Newlands Brewery in Newlands has been using the spring water that flows through/past it since inception. It is now limiting water collection from this spring as well.

So while it is offering to bottle the water at a heavily discounted rate it seems to me to be a marketing/PR opportunity. Based on the compounded cumulative savings over the many years it has operated using this spring water, the cost of bottling this free water is marginal and surely is far less than the historical savings.

Anyone agree? or disagree? Keen to hear other views.

SAB is bottling the water free off charge as I understand it. Will charge R1 per quart as deposit for the bottle. Return the empty and you get a full quart for free.

One of the contributing factors in this unfolding crisis was the attitude of the mayor of Cape Town – she kept on threatening and threatening without doing enough to follow through on the threats. The city has the data about which property’s occupants use how much water. Why did the city not do more to stop the waste with targeted intervention? My own water consumption dropped from 60 kiloliters in December 2015 (sprinklers running) to 12 kiloliters in December 2016 (watering can – trying to keep something alive)to 4 kiloliters in December 2017 – a 93.3% saving over two years ago. I am so sick and tired of being threatened after I have done all I can to use as little water as possible. A well-known hydrologist mentioned recently that 90% of the Breede River system’s water flows into the sea every year. Why hasn’t anything been done by the national Dept of Water and Sanitation to harvest some of that. If you want to market Cape Town as a tourist destination, it’s going to be quite hard if the place looks like a desert. So, there is a case for using water for gardens. All it takes is common sens, planning, and execution.

Why not?

More important to blather on and on and on about race, diversity, apartheid, free land, free educayshun, free medical and the “vulnerable” etc. So much easier to be a socialist with other peoples money rather than look after those in your own backyard who contribute to their local society via tax payments and being employed.

So much easier (and popular too) to chuck out the hated oppressors and put in those with potential; now we see how much potential they had.

So much easier to transform with fanfare than evolve with mentorship by those more experienced, older and wiser. Oh no, that is so yesterday.

It is not the DA or ANC who have caused this………… is the individuals within these organisations who have done this. Examine who they are, what are their characteristics, what experience do they have, what have the earned in life rather than been given for the sake of ideology.

Dr Gonzo’s comment hit the mark.

(I also see paper dinner plates becoming big business…reducing water for dishwashing. E.g. fancy recipes requiring oven-baked meals, will be temporarily abandoned…the oven-pan needs to be washed & cleaned. Big changes coming in restaurant menus…simplification, to save water required for dishwashing. Back to carrots, apples & peaches)
…imagine the posh eating food at the Cape Grace Hotel with paper plates & plastic cutlery!

On another note: is it my imagination, or is is totally OVERCAST/MISTY in CT today? (based on what is see on
Hence, if it’s not raining buckets, there is at least PLENTY OF WATER IN THE SKY. The water/moisture in the air needs to be “captured” (no, not the State!). There are “AWG” solutions that does that…using electricity & capital investment. (Two or three households can share the cost for example)

AWG systems works most efficient in humid regions (like KZN coast). Areas in the WC needs to be identified for above-average air-moisture…like parts of misty West Coast / around mountain peaks where clouds linger (like Constantia side to T-mntn / Hawequas mountain region). Needs to be done on commercial basis or provincial, placed up high in mountain, with water down-pipe for a few km…drastic measures = drastic results).

An AWG system is not magic nor exotic…can be locally designed & manuf in SA…is essence a massive Air Dehumidifier (based on compressor/refrigerant an aircon) connected to water filtration system. Can be rudimentary & cheaply made. Hot/moist air over cold coils/plates = water. On sunny days, power if with PV-solar system, instead of Eskom.

An “fun” exercise for everyone in WCape (especially is misty days like today): connect plastic tube to outside building-aircon’s excess water outlet. Hang the other end of tube into collection bucket. At the end of day LET ME KNOW how many litres are collected. You’ll be surprised. Use it for “grey” water.

I suggested to my brother-in-law who lives in CT that they invest in an atmospheric water generator (AWG). You can get a household unit from a company called Ecoloblue in the USA for around R25,000, exchange rate depending. That can produce about 30 litres a day, depending on humidity levels. Beyond the initial investment you have to replace the filters every year or so. Its a lot of cash upfront to be sure but I felt worth it, given the circumstances.

100% with you on this one 🙂 Surely it will cost…both in capital outlay & running costs (elect & filter replacement). Some households/communities can share the cost. The price to pay for peace of mind.

Cheaper alternative, is to acquire a (large) Air Dehumidifier system. Use the resultant “grey” water accordingly, or find a method to create a ‘gravity feed’ water filtration setup. (the ‘how to’ can be googled).

Our experience is that a medium sized aircon. unit running for most of the day can give up to 20 litres per day.

Expensive on electricity but we also get the benefit of a cooler house.

A better bet than an AWG?

Those clouds covering the mountains are feeding the mountain dams which are currently at an average of just over 80% average full. The mountains are lush and green – start removing alien vegetation which syphons up water and start using water curtains collecting this mist. there are many innovative solutions internationally but we live in another world here it seems. In India Vodafone have used large gutters on top of billboards to collect water and flow down into tanks which is free water for the locals.

Such easy stuff but it seems we are too stupid here in Africa.

beachcomber – you started off your comment so well but then blew it all with your last sentence. Water-guzzling alien vegetation is being removed from our mountain and elsewhere. Cape Town is using innovative ways to save and generate potable water. Just do some research and focus on the facts and not the unsubstantiated fake news presented by many Moneyweb commentators. Also please communicate the vodafone idea to the City of Cape Town so that it can be considered.

Don’t know what the problem is of using your own borehole. The city could claim that it is possible groundwater for them to use but its highly unlikely. The City boreholes are at least 100 meters deep and can’t possibly use all the groundwater in the cape. If your own borehole runs dry that your own problem. Some people had the savvy and foresight to save and install boreholes. Unlikely the city which had no foresight and have to borrow and raise taxes to finance its water augmentation. Imagine me installing a borehole and then ask for a pay increase because of that.

the business impact is immense and far worse than residential!

1. A factory with 400 workers has to shut its doors when there is no water for the chillers that provide process cooling water to the production line.

2. What happens when a fire breaks out and the council fire supply is gone? It is apparently already 1 bar in parts of the cape flats. People will die, property will be lost.

3. If you think a house is tough, what happens with 400 people’s toilet needs in a concentrated area of 20 toilets. There is no shower or grey water to use to flush the toilet.

If the DA keeps the CBD and Waterfront going plus a few (rich) business districts they better get ready for war. There is no justifiable logic for giving some ratepayers water and others not.

The CoCT head office is in the CBD, so Zille and de Lille can continue to flush their bogs in their plush offices while most of the ratepayers have to stand in that line every day….

Good article Hilton. I’m afraid that the main problem has been the hubris of the mayor and the City managers who get paid close to R2m per annum.

I’ve been a Cape Town resident for 70 years and actually, this summer has been not much different to those that I remember. Yes, there has been less rainfall but the 8 minor mountain dams are 81% full.

Today the main dams which are Voelvlei and Theewaerskloof are at 14 and 18 %. Voelvlei which is in the Breede River farmlands has been used for agriculture – 60% allocation and likewise TWK. Yes, we must keep the farms going but perhaps there could’ve been better management. Unfortunately the blame game is being played with the DA and the ANC national government. The main problem is TWK which is not really a dam but rather a very large and shallow vlei. We have had very high South Easters and long periods of high temperatures so the evaporation from this dam has been enormous. Think of putting a saucer of water out in the noonday sun on a windy day.

The next problem is the almost doubling of the Western Cape population in the last decade or so with NO new water source being added. Where’s the logic in that? I like to think that we are business people in this forum and that scenario is like Checkers opening up in a new suburban mall and as the population doubles around them they stay exactly the same size with the same volumes of stock.

Will it be any surprise when they run out of bread and milk at noon? Business acts but the City of Cape Town holds “meetings” with no-one prepared to step up into radical decision making.

We cannot build any more dams; geographically and geologically; the Cape Flats / Table Mountain aquifers are not limitless and so use has to be very carefully managed to prevent salt water leeching in which would be a real disaster, rendering them unusable.

So where does Cape Town get new water from considering that rain patterns have been changing over the last decade or more and rain that should have fallen on the Western Cape is now falling out into the Southern Ocean. I’ve been watching the system over the last year or so on

The only solution is major 500m litres per day desalinisation plants. One on the Table Bay side and another on the False Bay side. Everyone will be screaming at the cost but there are many ways of raising the capital – selling off City land and that includes the useless Stadium to the V&A Waterfront which would create even more jobs than the 20,000 it does right now and the R20 billion pa that it brings to Cape Town.

A cappuccino costs you R25 anywhere in Cape Town and if we need to add another R100 – R500 a month to our water bills for the next ten years to pay for them so be it. How many cups of coffee will you need to forgo?

We HAVE to get real and get real FAST.

100% agree. Finger pointing needs to stop & we need to be solutions-driven. Sea water desalination (and AWG constructed up in mountain cliffs/moisture catchment regions) is the only real (but costly) solution.

(…we can respectfully learn from Israel regarding innovative water solutions)

We need a mindset change. Reduction in water usage is important, but it MUST go along with new ways to augment water supply.

The national ANC government has allocated too much water to agriculture to deliberately undermine the City of Cape towns requirement and cause the DA to lose face. No denying that de Lille is an incompetent rogue much like her president but this disaster has been constructed primarily by the national government!

Like electricity, rail and mining, water is a national incompetence with the ANC.

It will get interesting to see whether the ANC national government can get constitutionally competent with water in time.

Yes we were told in August not to expect much rainfall early on up here in Gauteng but that the heavens would open from January onwards.Well the exact opposite has happened(decent rainfall up until mid December) and the Western Cape,a winter rainfall area, has probably had more rainfall over the last 5 weeks than Gauteng.See Angus Buchan has predicted relief for the Western Cape by March and with the weather so screwball perhaps their rainy season will start in February and not May,June!

Is there stats on consumption? namely:
– Households
– Informal Settlements
– Industry,
– Agriculture

Cape Town is monitoring households; but other categories are not reported on.
Sure Industry and Agriculture should not be curbed; but they should form part of the stats.

Rarely seen such a lot of tiresome and boring cliches on one subject. When Bobinoz is involved you know the level of comments drop to mud level.

I don’t get the issue. My family of 4 average under 200 litres per day without restrictions. What is it the Capetonians are doing? Watering their hill… errr… “mountain”? I seriously thought everyone was into conservation of resources.

Jimmy u r a genius.

We 2 in CT use at best about 62 litres a day (average over 30 days) pulling out just about all stops.

Send us your recipe please

That’s my point. I have no idea.

We have a low flow shower head and my kids share a bath. Don’t fill pools. Nature waters my grass and plants otherwise they’re naturally dorment in dry periods. I use kids bath water on veg cause the soap shases the bugs. Use a dishwasher once a day, I reckon not having a maid probably saves me a load. And wash clothes every 2nd or 3rd day. Don’t leave taps running to brush teeth… actually for me thats shower routine and my kids learn that in school. Oh… and the ATUAL mountain, the drakensberg, well that waters itself. Plus my family are forced to drink a minimum of 2,5l per day. So quite frankly, I just thought that was “normal”. Maybe its the A++ washing machine and dishwasher?

Not sure why you need his recipe? 2 @ 62l/day = 4 @ 124l/day: well below his family’s consumption…

Interestingly, talking about water-evaporation from dams…2 yrs ago, I read up on research (Australian company I recall…Rob can check for us 😉 as to limit evaporation.

Clever concepts were studied, one being pumping a (enviro-friendly) reflective film or some chemical compound drifting on the surface. Problem was wind drift. Another inventive approach was millions of plastic balls (like those found in a kids’ playpen) to cover the whole dam surface. The black colored balls advantage, was to block sunlight…but then attracted heat between the balls and water surface…leading to increased bacteria. White plastic balls were used. Results not conclusive, as far as I can recall.

Thinking of dams….now that you can drive your 2-wheeled car in parts of Theewaterskloof!…there’s NO known reports that CoCT is using this golden opportunity to excavate silk/sand, in order to make it a deeper dam (benefiting both storage capacity & evaporation ratio), for when the dam fills up again in later years.

I recall Mutare in Zimbabwe in the 1990s. Bad planning and bad luck created a severe water crises (the second major dam supplying the city was a year or two late in its commissioning). In the end, the city simply turned off water supply on 4 out of 7 days every week. On the other days, there were limitations on usage and severe fines for exceeding these. It was amazing how people simply adapted and got through that year long circumstance.

Is there a solution? Well get rid of the DA govt & install a real coalition give in WC (like what Britain did during ww2) may be a start. Copy what Perth & Sydney did & instal a desalination plant. Ban all swimming pools. One day on one day off? All possiblities BUT unlikely to be taken until there is no choice left. For the last 6 months I hammered over the lack of action by all parties -& now things are happening – albeit slowly & reluctantly. However for next 12 months it’s going to buckets, waiting all day for yr chance & possibility of major civil disobedience. But that’s what happens when people refuse to accept the bleeding obvious. BTW how come SA Breweries seems to have the right to take water from the aquifer. This belongs to the people of Cape Town surely?

Hey Rob, when we don’t hit day zero will you come back and admit you were wrong?

Yeah SA Breweries has side-stepped everything it seems.

They have the following:
Newlands Spring provides 1662m3 of water to the brewery per day
5 boreholes each with a capacity of 3600m3 per day
Kommetjie Spring provides them with 320m3 per day

So they have the capacity for: 1662m3 + (5 * 3600m3) + 320m3 = 19982m3 = 19 982 000 liters per day

Basically all of that water is leeched from the aquifer.


A swimming pool does not have to use any drinking water. With a cover evaporation is nearly zero and the winter rains are more than enough to allow for cleaning and top-up.

If it is true that 60% of people have not reduced consumption then that is an admission of failure on the part of the administration. Where is the enforcement they promised?

Desalination was expensive compared to water prices, but looking at Cape Town’s current water rates it looks like the cost would not be much different.

The electricity supplier in South Africa now has extra capacity, so the excuse of not having sufficient supply for desalination is no longer valid.

I also found newspaper articles where the city administration was promising to start implementing alternative sources nearly a year ago, but then put them on hold because they hoped there would be enough rain.

Eskom has indicated that their supply is more than the demand. If we build water desalination plants and we require energy/power this should be able to assist eskom with their over supply at this stage. Using more than the over supply would assist ESKOM in allocating more PPA’s at 90cents per unit to PV and WIND production plants which will assist turning eskom around and making the burden on the tax payer less as well as create new jobs for the short term.

In return eskom should also reduce the price of a unit of electricity to the industrial or manufacturing zones trying to assist them to grow business and then use by using more electricity more new plants at production rates of 90cents per unit could be build.

In the western cape Using nuclear which we have at koeberg, with wind and PV we would be able to support this desalination plants.

If we build more plants than needed this in return will bring down desalination cost per liter of water and this could support the population growth of the western cape as well as reduce water cost to our agriculture industry.

Moving from 87l to 50l pd will be a bit hectic if its long-term. Desalination seems the answer. If the portion of Capetonians who are able to contribute to an emergency fund do so we would have a fund that pays for 50% of a desalination plant by year end.

Lets say there are 100,000 families (representing 400,000 people) who fall into this category (out of a much larger metropolitan population):
1/5 pays R2000 pm for a year ; 1/5 pays R1500 pm ;1/5 pays R1000 pm ;1/5 pays R500pm and 1/5 pays R250 pm and say 5,000 businesses @ an average of R10,000 pm we will have R1.9 billion by year-end.

It hardly seems “undoable” when broken down like this?

Probably sounds like the drought levy but should we be crybabies ? Lets (who can) cough up and sort our future out ! The knock on costs to the average Capetonian of downturns in tourism , agriculture ,factory output etc would massively outweigh this “contingency expense” (not even mentioning devaluation of assets which would likely impact most those who are in the R2000 pm category so the progressive scale probably makes sense and also the inconvenience of queuing) . Its a night out at a restaurant for some!

COCT start CROWDFUNDING! -it’s not mandatory like the drought levy but if properly advertised and targeted, people (who have the enjoyment of the mother city) will be willing to step up

Perhaps the COCT’s new proposed surcharge is attempting to raise funds for desalination etc but a two-pronged approach may be better. It can pay for the other 50% . What is there to lose?
Lets see what Capetonians feel about their future……..

End of comments.



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