Attention the Minister of Water and Sanitation and the Mayor of Cape Town:
This water crisis represents the greatest challenge to the City inhabitants, through cholera and conflict that could lead to death, due to lack of water.
This crisis is on the same level of death threats, as the gang and drugs pandemic, and the City response is as inadequate. The City is not accepting responsibility for having caused the crisis, through bad planning since the first water warnings in 2008, and is losing credibility amongst people.
Let’s examine the mixed messages on the water crisis from the Mayor’s office, that prioritises the wealthy more than the poor, who are more directly affected, as they cannot go and buy water at the store, or drain their pools.
Households are allocated 350 litres per day by the Mayor, which is around 87 litres per person in a four-person household in the suburbs. This, however, amounts to around 30 litres per person in a 12-person household, as is the case in most townships (with the two Wendy houses.)
The 5 litres of emergency spare water to be kept, amounts to 1,2 litres person per day in a 4-person household, but it’s just more than a can of coke size in a 12-person household. This is hardly sufficient.
The distribution of emergency water has no plan, but more importantly, there will be no water to distribute, as the dams will be empty, and contingency measures will only provide 100 million litres by March 2018.
The city water use at the moment is about 1% per week; there is 16% drinkable water left in dams. This means that there is only water left for 16 weeks, which takes us to the start of March.
The City announcement about Day Zero moving to May is because they now realise that by their own admission that when water runs out, they will have no additional water supply – so to make their story credible they move Day Zero to May .
The City says they will give 25 litres of water per person at water points when the taps run dry . Why not reduce water supply to 30 litres per day now, to delay, and avoid, water running out in the New Year?
The recycling is inadequate and not safe, as the Mayor says that the colour is not right and the smell is strange. So people must use it in toilets, not drink it, as it is suspect. This means that for drinking water, people must buy water – as the tap water is already contaminated . Where do poor people get money to shop for water?
The City says that they are going to give water through water points when the taps run dry. The question is where are they going to get the 500 million litres for the City needs when the taps run dry, as by their own admission water augmentation through desalination and aquifiers will only supply around 100 million litres in March 2018?
Most rich households who can afford to pay (for extra water) still (also have) access to the 20 megalitres per month, so there is no restriction on most wealthy people who use less than the 20 megalitres a month.
The demand reduction not been achieved as a result of people cooperating with the Mayor’s call, but the reduction to 850 Million litres per day in February this year was due to increased water cost. The call for reductions (in water consumption) has only seen a reduction from about 800 to about 600 million litres a day since February 2017 .
The water that is taken out of the system by farmers must be reduced immediately, to preserve the water supply for human and animal consumption only on farms and in cities. Irrigation must be stopped, as the plants should die before the humans, but farmworkers must still be paid from a disaster fund.
The million tourists who come to CT every year must be told to stay away, as we do not have water for them. Locals must get water before tourists, but there must be a disaster fund that continues to pay workers’ salaries in the tourism industry.
The Mayor and her team are clearly lying to Capetonians with their media campaign, that is pulling the wool over people’s eyes on the extent of the crisis. The plans of the City are inadequate when compared to the extent of the crisis, which will lead to disease and illness when the toilets are blocked up. The measures identified above must be urgently implemented if we are to avoid Day Zero. Day Zero is defined as a slogan of a movie by the Mayor – when clearly it is going to be death day, as conflict and cholera lead to violence that the City cannot contain. But then this story seems to suggest that the crisis is going to primarily impact on the poor communities of Cape Town first.
We trust that the Office of the Mayor and the Office of the Minister will take this matter seriously and send their representatives to the Section 77 meeting to be held on Friday 24 November at 10 00 at Community House, with a broad representation of organisations in the City.
Failure to take this matter seriously will see the main freeways into the City of Cape Town blocked next time the water is cut off into the townships, as has been communicated by Community groupings.
This letter was written by COSATU’s Tony Ehrenreich, and was copied to The Cape Messenger. It has been edited for clarity.