Avoiding “Day Zero” in 2018 and Beyond

Facing its worst drought in a century, Cape Town is in the midst of a severe water crisis. Business and Government are now required to collaborate on short-term plans to avoid a “Day Zero” scenario, develop contingency plans in the event that “Day Zero” is reached, and work on longer-term augmentation plans to diversify the city’s water sources.

At our recent Thought Leaders engagement, Avoiding ‘Day Zero’ in 2018 and Beyond, we heard from Deputy Mayor, Ian Neilson, who provided business with a status update with respect to Cape Town’s water outlook for 2018. Ian said that every business in the city depends on adequate water supply and that we must ensure that our water crisis does not become an economic crisis. He went on to say that if the water restrictions imposed on the city are strictly adhered to and assuming 2018 will have the same level of rainfall as last year, the water levels in the dams supplying Cape Town should not drop below 10%, and Capetonians will be able to get through the rest of the year without having to endure a Day Zero scenario.

Ian reminded us about how dire the water outlook was during the month of January, saying that due to inadequate compliance with the Department of Water and Sanitation restrictions, Cape Town came very close to what has been named the “failure zone” in the City’s water disaster management plan. It was very reassuring to hear that matters have improved considerably regarding water-saving efforts over the last month, and that the rate at which dam levels have dropped has been reduced from 1.5% per week in January, to 0.5% per week. Ian said that even though we have done well to reduce water consumption, we need to keep our foot on the gas because the reality is that we still do not have enough water.

Speaking to augmentation schemes, Ian said that the City is actively pursuing opportunities to increase the supply of water available to Cape Town including groundwater, reuse, temporary and permanent desalination, swaps/purchase of water from agriculture and other small sources such as springs. Please click here to view the City’s water outlook at as 15 February 2018.

We then heard an update from Economic Opportunities Minister, Alan Winde, who said that despite the drought, job growth continues to flourish in the Western Cape. The province created 92 000 jobs in the last quarter, recorded the highest year-on-year increase in jobs, and has the country’s lowest rate of unemployment. Acknowledging the efforts of many businesses who have made huge strides with regards to water management, Alan encouraged corporate Cape Town to remain forward-thinking and to continue innovating around water saving to ensure business continuity and sustainability.

We then hosted an interactive panel discussion with relevant experts working at the heart of the crisis. The panel included WWF Programme Manager: Water Stewardship, Dr Klaudia Schachtschneider; Director of Trade & Investment in the Mayor’s Office, Lance Greyling; Chief Director of the Green Economy in the WCG’s Department of Economic Development, Helen Davies; City of Cape Town Executive Director for Water and Sanitation, Gisela Kaiser, and Tourism and Water Programme Manager at Green Cape, Claire Pengelly.

Answering a question with respect to which parts of the city fall within the “CBD”, Lance assured business leaders that the City is working extensively to find innovative ways to ensure water supply. Using the City’s ECAMP (Economic Areas Management Programme) system, economic nodes have been identified, these have been overlaid on the water reticulation system, consumption levels in these areas taken into consideration, and a preliminary conclusion is that water supply to these economic nodes will not be interrupted. For those businesses who fall outside of the identified economic zones, the City is looking to establish a depot for water collection.

Avoiding ‘Day Zero’ in 2018 and Beyond was the first in Accelerate Cape Town’s series of Thought Leaders engagements with respect to the water crisis, and we look forward to seeing you at the next event. Please do keep an eye on our website for details around the next session.


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