Capetonians’ creative water saving ways
At dinner tables, in workplaces and on social media the staple discussion topics are innovative ideas to stave off Day Zero — when the city’s water supply dips so low the municipality turns off most taps, and rations residents to 25l/person/day at designated collection points.
The Facebook page Water Shedding Western Cape has more than 152,000 members, who trade tips on water conservation that range from technical advice on installing rainwater tanks, pumps and filters to simple ways to stop grey water from smelling and recipes for home-made waterless hand sanitisers.
The level of the six main dams that provide Cape Town’s water supply stood at 25.8% of their collective capacity on February 2.
A stark warning from mayor Patricia de Lille in mid-January that Day Zero was "now likely" and could arrive as soon as April 12 sparked consumer panic.
Within the space of a weekend some retailers’ shelves were swept bare of bottled water, 25l jerrycans and just about any other storage receptacle.
In the ensuing frenzy, Woolworths’ online ordering system buckled under the weight of orders for bottled water, Makro set up separate cashiers for the crowds who were buying water, and security was stepped up at the Newlands Spring as residents flocked to secure free supplies.
"Customers have been buying significantly more bottled water and water containers in the region since [new] restrictions were announced, and we are sourcing increased stocks from suppliers.
While consumer fear and creativity is plain to see, many businesses are innovating behind the scenes.
Large shopping malls are using grey water or borehole water to flush toilets, have switched off most taps, and offer consumers waterless hand sanitisers.
Private hospital group Netcare is also investing in desalination, and will shortly commission a plant in its Christiaan Barnard hospital that will yield enough fresh water for all five of its Cape Town hospitals, as well as showers and drinking water for staff should the need arise.