Faced with the mother of all wa­ter short­ages

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - PEOPLE -

fly home from a friend’s house one un­hinged Fri­day night, it struck me that the sea­sons had turned. My in­stincts said it was time to head west. My in­stincts have never been wrong, give or take a cou­ple of mar­riages and a ca­reer in jour­nal­ism.

And so I find my­self hun­kered down in a shack in the milk­woods of Kom­metjie typ­ing with fin­gers crip­pled from frost­bite. I am clothed in a stink­ing one­sie stitched from dassie fur and lined with the skins of two care­less Cape seals.

I ap­pear to have mist­imed the mi­gra­tion. Cape Town alone de­cides when to call it sum­mer. There’s noth­ing I can do about it now. I’d rather die of hy­pother­mia than head back down the Transkei’s Road­kill Road.

A cloud of panic hangs over this south­ern tip of Africa. It used to be bong smoke, but now it’s panic. Word on the street is that Cape Town will run out of wa­ter by March next year.

This is good news. I should be back in Dur­ban by then. Okay, fine. It’s bad news for the peo­ple who live here, but they could al­ways move to Dur­ban. By next Christ­mas we’ll all be drink­ing chardon­nay and pay­ing R5 mil­lion for a roach-in­fested rat hole in Gille­spie Street.

I’ve never been a huge fan of wa­ter. Salt wa­ter, yes, but only be­cause the ocean is made of it. I can un­der­stand why peo­ple would buy bot­tled wa­ter in a coun­try where land­mine vic­tims out­num­ber cars, but no­body ever died in

South Africa from drink­ing tap wa­ter. Ev­ery day there are fresh sta­tis­tics to scare the liv­ing hell out of ev­ery­one in Cape Town. The six dams that supply the city are cur­rently at 38% ca­pac­ity. Isn’t this quite good? It’s more than I got for maths in ma­tric and I turned out okay.

In the old days con­sump­tion in the metropole was at 1.1 bil­lion litres per day. It now stands at 585 mil­lion litres. A mas­sive re­duc­tion. But the num­ber is still too big for us to fully un­der­stand. Look at it this way. We’re con­sum­ing the equiv­a­lent of 292 Wind­hoek draughts for ev­ery man, wo­man and child – per day! I sup­pose not all of it is get­ting chucked down peo­ple’s throats. There’s bathing and wa­ter­ing gar­dens and wash­ing cars and a lot gets wasted in places like work­shops and hos­pi­tals where staff get grease and blood un­der their fin­ger­nails.

But ap­par­ently that’s still too much. The city wants peo­ple to shower for no longer than a minute. If you get caught run­ning a bath, you’re stripped naked and pub­licly flogged in Ad­der­ley Street.

I tried show­er­ing for one minute. At six-foot-four, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Sixty sec­onds was just enough to lather up into a strik­ing re­sem­blance of the abom­inable snow­man. So no rins­ing then? Seems un­duly harsh.

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