Cape Town mismanaging the water crisis - ANC WCape

Faiez Jacobs asks what the City and Province's plan is other than shaming and punishing users

City of Cape Town is mismanaging the water crisis

Thursday, 02 March 2017

The ANC in the Western Cape is concerned that the City of Cape Town is making huge decisions on water usage whilst providing very little information to the resident as the end user. We are concerned by both the possibility of a Municipality making consequential decisions on water usage based on little information and/ deliberately giving very little information to the residents. Their current approach is simple. Our dam levels are dropping drastically, residents are responsible, we will punish them. Our view is that this is a very dangerous approach and is unsustainable.

The biggest problem with the City of Cape Town is that most households and industry still use those analog meters, running numbers nobody really knows what they mean. This means our billing system is not informative, people don't know how much water they are using, on what, in what days, until they are served with a bill. This makes people not know where is their area of high water usage and how to respond to it. We need a very informative billing system. But our problems are much bigger and enduring.

Firstly, Andries Meyer, Sasol manager of sustainable water, says that local municipalities are losing anywhere near half of their water in leakages – infrastructure can be a century old and does not get maintained. Water losses from ageing networks could be as high as 30%-60%. Just focusing on fixing existing pipelines would make it less urgent to build new dams. Cape Town has the oldest infrastructure and the consequences are evident everywhere. That is why according to the City records, the two highest “users” of water are two elderly pensioners and some very poor indigent folks living in sub-economic flats in Manenberg, right next to the huge water leaks.

Secondly, the City provides very little information on the necessary water supply split. At the moment it is water that is fit to drink that is supplied to most users, which is very expensive. Instead clean water should be given to households and those who need it to drink, while untreated water can be given to industry, which is the biggest user of water.

The Institute of Security Studies has long revealed that Western Cape (and the country) use water on an average much higher than international average and this should have been addressed much sooner, reflecting a City without a plan. We use 235 litres of water a day compared with the international average of 173 litres. For example, as with other years, we had a total rainfall of 48-billion cubic metres, the total amount of water available in our dams was 38-billion cubic metres and looking at this, our water demand by 2035 will be 63-billion cubic metres. To solve this we would have to recycle all our water 1.6 times. Without a plan, we will be worst off.

Our dam levels were 79.2 percent full in May 2015, down from 90.1 percent a year earlier, this already was a sign to act. In 2015 already, many businesses were already adopting water as an economic business risk discussed in boardrooms, rather than the ‘green issue’ it has been categorized as previously, and here, both the City and Province missed an opportunity to deal with water high usage by business.

Only few weeks ago Western Cape was sitting at 38% of water dam levels. You must take out 10% since you cannot take out the bottom 10 of the water in the dam (both for ecological reasons and its too expensive to purify). We were therefore sitting at 28% dam levels a few weeks ago. Given that we are using 2% of our water in our dams every week. We are literally left with at least 10 weeks of water with our current reserves until the water season kicks in.

What is the plan of the City and Province, besides shaming and punishing users, who will continue to use 2% of the water reserves everyday.

Statement issued by Faiez Jacobs, ANC Western Cape provincial secretary, 2 March 2017