Water scarcity ‘now new nor­mal’ for Cape Town

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

CAPE Town mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille has de­scribed the sce­nario of the city run­ning out of us­able water as a “cri­sis of cat­a­strophic pro­por­tions”, and warned that water scarcity was now the “new nor­mal”.

In a speech to a full coun­cil yes­ter­day, De Lille said that over many decades, en­gi­neers and plan­ners had built the water sup­ply in­fra­struc­ture in the city and in the sur­round­ing ar­eas which had served the city well and had pre­vi­ously seen Cape Town through drought pe­ri­ods.

“The drought we are cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing is the most stub­born in re­cent his­tory,” she said. “Water is not to be taken for granted. To run out… is to be pre­sented with a cri­sis of cat­a­strophic pro­por­tions.

“We have had water re­stric­tions in place since 2005, which were in­ten­si­fied in De­cem­ber 2015 – 18 months ago. These re­stric­tions have got pro­gres­sively tighter, which is the ac­cepted tech­nique of match­ing de­mand with avail­abil­ity dur­ing ex­tended pe­ri­ods of low rain­fall.”

De Lille said that as per prac­tice over many decades, the city had re­lied on win­ter rain­fall to re­plen­ish the dam sys­tem, but that chang­ing pat­terns meant even this was no longer a guar­an­tee.

“Two days ago we an­nounced that dam stor­age lev­els are now at 19.7%, which is 0.8% down from a week ago. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not be­ing us­able, dam lev­els are ef­fec­tively at 9.7%.

“It is im­por­tant to test our as­sump­tions on how we tra­di­tion­ally man­age water in the city. What has worked very well in the past may not be the best model go­ing for­ward.”

De Lille said the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion called for mak­ing cer­tain de­ci­sions in the con­text of un­pre­dictabil­ity.

“We can­not be sure whether it will rain this win­ter. We have gone through May with noth­ing much to show with re­gard to rain­fall,” she said. “June might be bet­ter, but the point is we do not know. We need a new re­la­tion­ship with water. The days of plen­ti­ful water sup­ply in Cape Town may very well be over,” De Lille added.

“We need to em­brace the fact that water scarcity is the new nor­mal and all our fu­ture plan­ning must ac­cept that we are liv­ing in a drought-stricken area.”

On Tues­day, the City of Cape Town warned that Capeto­ni­ans us­ing more than 3 500 litres of water a month could ex­pect to see a whop­ping 19.25% in­crease in their water bills from July.

The an­nounce­ment came from De Lille, who tabled the City of Cape Town bud­get on Tues­day.

She said Capeto­ni­ans had pro­gres­sively re­duced their water use down to a daily use of about 666 mil­lion litres of water, against the cur­rent tar­get of 600 mil­lion litres.

“I am dis­ap­pointed that the tar­get is not be­ing met, and I know there is room for im­prove­ment from many peo­ple who may not yet un­der­stand the se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion this city is in,” she said.

She said the “new nor­mal” for the city was an op­por­tu­nity to “sig­nif­i­cantly change our ap­proach to water”.

“It is about build­ing re­silience, which is the ca­pac­ity of in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties, in­sti­tu­tions, busi­nesses and sys­tems to sur­vive, adapt and grow no mat­ter what kind of stresses and acute shocks they ex­pe­ri­ence,” De Lille added.

“We need to re­think our over­re­liance on sur­face water and in­creas­ingly em­brace more non-sur­face water op­tions such as water re-use and de­sali­na­tion.”

The city coun­cil was due to con­sider a move to level 4 water re­stric­tions yes­ter­day, which would pro­hibit the use of potable water out­side the house.

De Lille called on res­i­dents not to use more than 100 litres of water each a day.

“Each of us must cre­ate our own per­sonal water bud­gets,” she said.

De Lille said the city was in a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, and res­i­dents and busi­nesses needed to re­duce water us­age city­wide to 500 mil­lion litres of water a day. “It might be hard and dif­fi­cult now but the risk of run­ning out of water is even more dis­as­trous.” – ANA

We can­not be sure whether it will rain this win­ter

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