A top business leader has warned that Cape Town will run dry over the summer.
“I don’t think they will get to March without running out of water,” Accentuate CEO Fred Platt told a media briefing in Johannesburg.
His company has a water division, and has partnered an Indian company to secure cutting-edge water treatment technology.
He said that water is becoming “a long term play” for his business, and ”given the inevitable challenge of water, we will be ready to take advantage.“
Platt said of the water crisis in the Western Cape: “We can see what is happening in the Western Cape. They have done too little, too late.
”They have put out tenders for desalination plants: they are tapping aquifers.
“But we live in a water-stressed country. You can’t keep filling a leaking bucket.”
He said the key message about water is: we can’t keep just using and disposing of it.
“You are a custodian,” he explained. “In Cape Town you need to look at usage. It does not help to tell people not to use water.
“We are discharging millions of litres of effluent.”
He suggested that Cape Town can learn a lot from how other countries – such as Singapore – have tackled their water crises.
“That will be the way forward – there will be a lot more companies and individuals taking responsibility for their own water, recycling and re-using it.”
Platt said Accentuate has identified a number of projects to tackle the water crisis “looking at total water management solutions. We are working with construction and financial partners.”
Projects being considered range in scale from R5m water projects in textile plants, up to R4bn to R5bn desalination plants.
“The plants they need (in Cape Town) are on that scale. Government doesn’t necessarily need to find that kind of funding. There is cash internationally. We could source funding from our partners in India.
“The problem is who is the contracting authority – mostly you have to contract with municipalities?”
He said that renewable power producers can contract with state utility Eskom, but there is no similar opportunity for those involved in water projects.
“We don’t have an Eskom,” he said. “With renewables, you can deal with Eskom.
“There will have to be a lot of hard work. There needs to be political will to solve these problems. We need to have an understanding in Cape Town on the provincial and municipal level.”
He also warned that in Gauteng, water will be “stressed to 2025, because they haven’t signed the second phase of the Lesotho water project.
“The lack of water can’t be ignored. We need progressive leadership from government, or larger businesses will take responsibility – recycle and reuse.”
He warned that the scale of the water crisis is “bigger than our (the country’s) political problems.
“Until now, a lot of people have worked in isolation. We (Accentuate) are getting those partners together to put together a total solution, on a project-by-project basis.
“There is a lot of focus on technology solving the problem. The problem is you need to (put a project together from scratch), to finance and to implement it. To be effective you need an alliance with the whole value chain.
“We are working with civils (engineers) and construction guys, to the financial players, to the engineering and technical people. We want to lead a dialogue around water.
“It is already getting late to open a dialogue. Eskom started talking about its problems in 2000, and the lights went out in 2007/8. People are not understanding the seriousness of the water problem. The problem is how do you commercialise, contract and engage?
“Major water opportunities for us are in additional sources of water – ground water, desalination, and recycling and re-use of effluent.”
Platt delivered a stark warning about the dangers of a lack of water: “We need to understand this is a national resource. The ultimate enabler of business is also the ultimate disabler. With lots of water in the Karoo, you will see a city. That is the power of water.”