Water drips from a tap.
CAPE TOWN - The City of Cape Town will shut off the water supply to taps when dams reach a collective level of 13.5 percent, the city said on Sunday.
On Monday, the city would activate the disaster operations centre (DOC) to execute the city’s water disaster plan which would take effect in the event of the so-called "Day Zero", when the city officially runs out of water.
"While the city is focusing all its efforts on beating back Day Zero, we need to be prepared for a scenario where we take control of the city’s water supply in order to extend it into the winter months. We will shut off supply to taps when our dams reach a collective level of 13.5 percent," senior city officials said in a statement on Sunday.
To avoid this, current consumption had to be reduced to 450 megalitres a day. This equated to 50 litres per person per day. Many Capetonians had reduced their consumption substantially over the past few months and all residents were urged to join the savings drive.
Since March 2017, the city’s water and sanitation department had introduced various initiatives to lower water demand, including advanced pressure reduction to lower the rate at which water flows, and the installation of water meters to reduce consumption.
"When our dam levels reach 13.5 percent, we will begin to shut down our reticulation system, except to key commercial areas and institutions such as hospitals. Once this happens, residents will be able to access water from collection points across the city. Each resident will be allocated 25 litres of water a day. There will be separate sections for pedestrian and vehicle access, as well as access for those collecting on behalf of vulnerable groups."
The water collection points were only one layer of the disaster plan. They were a means of last resort. Water tankers would be used to deliver water to vulnerable groups such as old age homes and care facilities.
"We are also engaging retailers and the bottled water association to ramp up their distribution networks to increase bottled water supply so that those who do not want to use the water collection points can purchase water," the statement said
"We are designing the collection points to ensure that they can be managed in the most efficient way possible. For the next two months, we will be trouble-shooting each water collection point so that if Day Zero arrives people are able to collect water as quickly and safely as possible."
No one would be turned away from the collection points. All people living in Cape Town would be entitled to collect water at these points. No one would be required to provide any identification to collect their daily allocation of water.
The collection of water would only be regulated to prevent any one person from collecting far above their daily water allocation. Officials would be on site to monitor potential abuse.
"We are busy categorising the water collection points in terms of high risk, medium risk, and low risk and the deployment of security staff to these sites will be aligned to this rating."
The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had confirmed that they would assist the city to secure collection points.
"Every possible contingency is being considered and we will continuously evaluate and fine-tune these measures in the lead up to Day Zero and in the days that follow.
"We are well aware, however, that despite doing everything possible to ensure the smooth operation of the water collection points, the act of collecting water will be a massive inconvenience to Capetonians. If we don’t want to queue, we must save water now. If we can keep our daily water use below 50 litres per person, we can avoid Day Zero."
The city would hold weekly media briefing sessions at the DOS to ensure that the many concerns the public had about the disaster plan and Day Zero were addressed.
"However, and it cannot be stressed enough, we will be able to avoid running out of the water if we all join in the effort to bring individual consumption down to 50 litres a day. Together, we can defeat Day Zero," the statement said.