Pres­sure mount­ing in Cape Town’s wa­ter cri­sis

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS - TANYA PE­TERSEN

AS OF Fri­day noon, the City of Cape Town had al­ready re­ceived 54 000 com­ments dur­ing their pub­lic par­tic­i­pa­tion process for the pro­posed drought levy, which is clos­ing tomorrow.

Jo­han van der Merwe, may­oral com­mit­tee mem­ber for fi­nance in the city, said they be­lieve that a “drought charge is crit­i­cal” in or­der to make up the short­fall of rev­enue in or­der to “in­crease the se­cu­rity of our wa­ter sup­ply”.

“There will be a coun­cil meet­ing on Fri­day next week to con­sider the com­ments re­ceived and to de­ter­mine the way for­ward re­gard­ing wa­ter re­silience in the City of Cape Town.”

He said that any de­ci­sion taken at the meet­ing will in­form the ad­just­ment bud­get “that will be tabled for coun­cil for ap­proval at the end of Jan­uary 2018”.

“The pro­posal to raise rev­enue via the rates ac­count dur­ing the cur­rent fi­nan­cial year will also need to be ap­proved by the Na­tional Min­is­ter of Fi­nance.”

Ac­cord­ing to the City’s dash­board, Day Zero is pre­dicted for April 22, with the prov­ince’s dams cur­rently at 29.7% ca­pac­ity.

In a state­ment is­sued by the City in Novem­ber last year, taps are set to be turned off once the dams reach a level of 13.5%.

Once this hap­pens, res­i­dents will have to col­lect their wa­ter sup­ply from one of 200 wa­ter col­lec­tion sites that will be spread out across the city.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment, the plan is to dis­trib­ute 25 litres of wa­ter per per­son each day as set out by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

These wa­ter­ing sites are ex­pected to cater to an es­ti­mated 20 000 peo­ple per site ev­ery day.

Dr Kevin Win­ter from UCT’s En­vi­ron­men­tal and Ge­o­graph­i­cal Science Fu­ture Wa­ter In­sti­tute said the idea of wa­ter points are cer­tainly a wake-up call; how­ever, he doesn’t be­lieve that it will reach that point.

“The City has been quite good in help­ing us see what the re­al­ity is. I re­ally don’t think we are go­ing to go down that route.

“To be hon­est, I think it is go­ing to rain, I think we will prob­a­bly get through this cri­sis.”

Win­ter added he doesn’t be­lieve the City is go­ing to run out of wa­ter as he sees them be­ing able to man­age the cri­sis “very care­fully”.

“What they can’t tell you is ex­actly how much wa­ter can be drawn out of the aquifers be­cause any wa­ter that is un­der­ground takes time to un­der­stand the yield. It will take a lit­tle while be­fore we can get the real fig­ures com­ing out de­spite what the mayor and oth­ers are say­ing that there is po­ten­tially 150 mil­lion litres there. This can only re­ally be de­ter­mined over the next cou­ple of weeks.”

He said in­for­ma­tion would be clearer and more def­i­nite by Fe­bru­ary.

In terms of the drought charge, Win­ter said this is some­thing that is needed, but that peo­ple have not taken too well to it as many res­i­dents have seen it as be­ing counter pro­duc­tive to the in­vest­ment they have made in terms of their wa­ter-sav­ing meth­ods.

“The City has to find the

‘The City has to find the cost of op­er­at­ing its sys­tems right now’

cost of op­er­at­ing its sys­tems right now and main­tain­ing it. That is cru­cial and I don’t think the cit­i­zens should be ar­gu­ing that. I think it is the ap­proach of the drought levy that caused the real is­sue. Peo­ple are an­noyed that they have to pay a tax which is not di­rectly re­lated to their wa­ter us­age.”

How­ever, he said it is im­por­tant that the City raises the nearly R2 bil­lion that they need to se­cure wa­ter.

“What we re­ally need to do now is to find in­cen­tives for those who have found wa­ter and are even treat­ing wa­ter on their own prop­er­ties to be able to share it,” said Win­ter.

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