The imminent Day Zero which has galvanised Cape Town residents into saving water has been pushed back a month, as government declared the drought facing three SA provinces a national disaster, writes Legalbrief. The City of Cape Town’s Day Zero has been extended to 4 June, from 11 May. Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said the delay in Day Zero was attributed to the continued decline in agricultural usage and the city reducing water usage. Meanwhile, the national Disaster Management Centre has called on organs of state to implement contingency measures to enable the national executive to deal with the drought in parts of SA, notes a Mail & Guardian Online report. Writing in the Government Gazette last week, disaster head Dr Mmaphaka Tau Tau said, after re-assessing the magnitude and severity of the drought in at least three provinces, disaster management reclassified the drought as a national disaster. The Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape have already been declared provincial disasters. ‘The primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster, in terms of existing legislation and contingency arrangements, is designated to the national executive,’ Tau said. Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen said the department would move to identify impediments on spending given to all provinces to deal with the situation. He said it had also become clear that the department might have to look into supply chain issues, which slowed some water initiatives down.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has rebuked Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane over her utterances on the province’s drought crisis. According to a report in The Herald, Zille noted that Mokonyane had until recently been silent on the issue‚ which has gripped the Mother City since last year. In an article on the Daily Maverick site, Zille noted that Cape Town’s use of the term Day Zero came under fire from Mokonyane in Parliament this month when she briefed the Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee. Mokonyane said it had not been sanctioned by the National Disaster Management Centre. Other parts of the country had also been hit by severe dry spells‚ she said, and some areas of North West had not had water in three years. ‘It had been invented‚ she suggested‚ as a PR concept‚ so that people could make money out of the water shortage,’ noted Zille. ‘The Minister’s speeches sounded as if they had been scripted by Bell Pottinger,’ Zille claimed, asking: ‘A simple question to the Minister: If Day Zero is a figment of a PR consultant’s imagination‚ why does the Inter-ministerial task team intend to declare the drought a national disaster during the coming week?’
About 20 members of a coalition against the privatisation of water descended on Zille’s official residence Leeuwenhof last week to fill their water containers from a tap outside her gate. According to a Mail & Guardian Online report, they claimed that #DayZero was ‘fake news’. ‘The city is deliberately creating a scarcity, scaring the people about the Day Zero,’ said Shaheed Mohammed, a committee member of the Tafelsig Activists Forum (TAF), outside Zille’s gate, while police looked on. He said there was water available, but that the city was ‘creating’ the scarcity which had led to calls for a drastic reduction in water consumption. This had led to the construction of temporary desalination plants and the drilling of the Mitchells Plain aquifer at great cost and potential environmental damage, he said. The group said there are 70 springs around Cape Town which should be freely accessible to the public, and that gates should be opened if they are on locked sites. Mohamed said Zille had extended an open invitation to anybody to fetch spring water from her official residence, after complaints that the water feeding the lush grounds could be put to better use. The group was upset that, not only was the tap switched off, but that the gates were also closed so they could not get inside to the other taps on the property.
Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear plant last week launched a mobile groundwater desalination plant. According to an SA News report, the desalination plant will cater for the country’s sole nuclear power plant, thus easing pressure on the City of Cape Town’s water supply. ‘The desalination plant is part of Koeberg’s three-pronged water management strategy to address the current water shortages in the Western Cape while ensuring that the plant is able to provide safe and sustainable electricity. This strategy includes reducing the power station’s daily water usage, keeping adequate on-site water storage and looking at alternative water supplies (groundwater and sea-water),’ said power station manager Velaphi Ntuli. Koeberg can only operate about two weeks without off-site potable water. ‘The desalination solution was therefore quite important to ensure continuity of supply. It is worth noting that Koeberg saves 22bn litres of fresh water per annum as its condensers are cooled by means of sea water, which is returned to the sea after use,’ said Ntuli.
An interactive data visualisation tool using the latest available water consumption data has gone live to show where water is going in Cape Town. A TimesLIVE report notes that the tool was launched yesterday by Eighty20‚ a company that works with and analyses data. ‘Our hope is that the Water Tracker helps facilitate fact-based discussions and ultimately makes people more aware about the current crisis and nudges their behaviour towards greater water savings‚’ the company said. ‘The visualisation reveals that high-income areas with larger estates‚ such as Bishopscourt‚ Clifton‚ Camps Bay and Fresnaye tended to use more water‚ and were exceeding targets‚ despite having decreased their water usage dramatically from the beginning of 2017‚’ said Eighty20. The tool also provides up-to-date dam-level data that shows the declining trend in Cape Town’s dam capacity since 2012.
The Stellenbosch municipality yesterday imposed stricter water restrictions‚ limiting home owners to using 6 000l a month. According to a TimesLIVEreport, the municipality – which governs the towns of Stellenbosch‚ Franschhoek and Pniel – receives two-thirds of its municipal water from Cape Town via the Wemmershoek and Theewaterskloof dams. The new restrictions were imposed in order to bring the area in line with other municipalities which have already lowered monthly consumption to 6 000l a month per household or 50l per person‚ per day. ‘As of the end of March the municipality will switch over to our own water sources‚ which will make us independent from Cape Town water sources. By doing so more water will be made available to the city’s residents‚’ the municipality said.
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