Water saving, so close, yet so far

Cape Town plans to turn off the taps to 4 million people. However, it’s just one of many cities around the world facing a future with too little water without intense water saving.

Already, many of the 21 million residents of Mexico City only have running water for part of the day, while one in five receive water for a few hours from their taps a week. Several major cities in India don’t have enough. Water managers in Melbourne, Australia, reported last summer that they could run out of water in little more than a decade. Jakarta is running so dry that the city is sinking faster than seas are rising, as residents suck up groundwater from below the surface.

Posters to save water around the school

Posters to save water around the school

For us to reduce our water usage, we need to understand the situation. South Africa is arid. Table Mountain traps onshore breezes coming off warm ocean waters, creating local rains that power rivers and fill underground aquifers. Trouble started in 2014, the six dams were full, then came three years of drought- the worst in a very long time. Reservoirs stand on 26 percent of capacity. City officials plan to cut the taps when reservoirs reach 13.5 percent.

Water usage has been cut down to 50L per person whether at home, work, school or elsewhere. Day zero is expected on 9 July 2018

  • What is day zero?

Day Zero does not mean that there is no water in our dams. It does mean, however, that the dams are at a crucial low. This crucial low means that dam storage will be at 13.5%. This is when the City will turn off most taps, leaving only vital services with access to water.

  • What happens on day zero?

On Day Zero, Cape Town residents will have to collect water at 200 collection sites or points of distribution in Cape Town. The City estimates that about 20 000 people will be able to collect water per site per day. The collection points have not yet been announced.

  • How long is day zero expected to last?

We should be prepared to live with little water for three months and possibly up to six months after day zero. It all depends on when rain falls in source areas that feed the dams. However, the City of Cape Town is working on alternative water sources.

According to Cape Town Mayor, Patricia de Lille, “We can avoid day zero, but only if we work together”. With climate change we have to do more with less. Our hot and dry summer is here. We are not going to be given many more chances to really reduce our water usage. We have to do it now.

Borehole water used by Melkbosstrand High

Borehole water used by Melkbosstrand High

Melkbosstrand High makes use of borehole water and is very water-wise. In the bathrooms you will find waterless hand sanitiser to limit the use of water per learner and teacher! Together we can all make the difference that the city of Cape Town needs.