South Africa: Day Zero for Cape Town may be avoided, claims DA leader
The leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) brought good news to the citizens of Cape Town today with the announcement Day Zero was unlikely to occur this year if current water usage levels continued.
At the party's head office in the city, DA head Mmusi Maimane delivered a press briefing highlighting the city was previously facing an unprecedented crisis with the prospect taps were set to be turned off on April 12.
"As Leader of the DA, I was not satisfied with the way the city had responded to the drought crisis up to that point," Maimane said.
"I therefore decided to take political control of the situation, appoint a Drought Crisis Team – made up of the individuals sitting on this panel today – and commit to doing everything possible to fight this water crisis, on all fronts.
"When this decision was taken, our dam levels were sitting at 27.2%, with only 17.2% of usable water left. We made one thing clear: to fight this water crisis and Defeat Day Zero, we had to band together and mobilise public support around cutting consumption to record lows."
Maimane applauded the magnificent response of residents who rolled up their sleeves and "got stuck in" to solve the issue.
"Individuals, families, communities, businesses, private dam owners and many others. Everyone played their part in this city-wide collective effort to keep the taps open," he said.
"Each week, the water consumption steadily dropped, and we were able to push back Day Zero by days, and then weeks, and then months.
"I am therefore happy to announce today that provided we continue consuming water at current levels, and we receive decent winter rainfall this year, Day Zero will not occur in 2018. This means the taps will stay open in 2018!"
He said consumption was now at between 510-520 million liters per day, down from almost 1.2 billion liters in February 2015.
"This 60% reduction in consumption is an incredible achievement, and outperforms many other cities across the world which faced severe droughts – including Sao Paulo, Melbourne, and the State of California," he said.
"The significance of this effort cannot be overstated. The sustained dedication and fortitude of all residents is the primary reason for this. You are all Day Zero heroes."
"My deepest thanks also goes out to the private water transfer providers whose transfer of water has hugely helped us all to defeat Day Zero in 2018. I am similarly grateful to the agricultural sector and businesses who have played a massive part in defeating Day Zero for the year."
The DA leader emphasized the residents of Cape Town must not revert to "old bad habits", but he was confident there was now a "new normal" in the Western Cape around water use.
"In the context of climate change, South Africans ought to accept and appreciate that we have a new relationship with water. The DA will begin the process of tasking our governments to build water resilient cities and towns across the country, as we tackle this “new normal.”," he said.
In a release, agricultural industry body Agri SA said many farmers have had to make do with almost none of their allocated water because of nationally-imposed and strictly-enforced water restrictions.
"This has lead of enormous losses and hardship for the agricultural community, including job losses for seasonal farm labourers," the group said.
"While it clearly had the effect of focussing ordinary Capetonians’ attention on the severity of the prevailing drought, the use of the Day Zero scenario may also inadvertently have created its own unforeseen water management crisis.
"Panicked persons (who could afford to do so) began buying and stockpiling both raw and treated water in anticipation of Day Zero realising. This disruption of normal consumption patterns created enormous difficulties for City water planners as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation."
Agri SA said the City had failed to acknowledge agriculture's concerted efforts or the disastrous effects of the drought on the agricultural sector.
According to Agri SA’s Head of Natural Resources, Janse Rabie, the use (and now withdrawal) of the Day Zero scenario creates the impression the City may have cried wolf too soon and that the agricultural sector now has to pay for that action.
“While we are happy that Day Zero now appears to have been averted, people should realise that the current drought is by no means over," Rabie said.
"It remains a National Disaster which, particularly for the agricultural sector in the Western Cape, becomes worse with each passing day. We implore all spheres of government to maintain their focus on the severity of this drought and to step up the critical drought relief measures for the agricultural sector."
While the imminent threat of Day Zero appears to have been averted, the prevailing drought in the Province and the City continues. Both the National Water Restrictions of Jan. 12 2018 as well as the City’s Level 6b Water Restrictions remain in place and citizens are implored to adhere to the requirement of, amongst other things, limiting their personal water consumption to no more than 50 liters per person per day.