Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille has staged a spectacular U-Turn over her planned drought levy – after The Cape Messenger had reported it was to be shot down by the DA.
Instead of this approach – which offered no reward to households which have been saving water – she is planning tougher treatment for those who fail to be frugal.
The Mayor made her announcement at a news conference in Cape Town (Thursday).
There will now be “higher tariffs and a punitive charge for anyone who uses more than 50l of water a day. The new 50l limit will be backed up by a City-wide consumption target of 450-million litres a day.”
The 50l limit will be a cut from the current 87l limit, and will apply from the 1st of February.
De Lille said: “We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them.
“In terms of the drought charge‚ it is likely to be dropped after massive outcry from Capetonians that it was unfair. I understand that response and it has personally been a tough lesson for the City.”
So households which use up to 50‚000l‚ will see their bills will rise from R2‚888.81 to R20‚619.57.
De Lille’s oversight of the water crisis is threatened, with the DA having voted to remove her from this responsibility; meanwhile, there are moves afoot to remove her as Mayor.
This week, the City warned that on current trends Day Zero – when the taps run dry and people have to queue for water – will arrive on April 21st.
The Mayor’s latest measures are designed to try to prevent Day Zero.
De Lille blamed high water users for the new crisis measures:
“We have reached a point of no return,” she said “Despite our urging for months, 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day.
“It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero.
“At this point, we must assume that they will not change their behaviour and that the chance of reaching Day Zero on 21 April 2018 is now very likely.
“The people who are still wasting water seem to believe that Day Zero just can’t happen or that the City’s seven augmentation projects – set to produce around 200 million litres per day – will be enough to save us.
“This is not the case and, while our water augmentation programme will make Cape Town more water resilient in the future, it was never going to be enough to stop Day Zero.
“The crisis has reached a new severity, necessitating a series of new emergency measures.”
De Lille added: “The City has also advanced its planning for Day Zero with approximately 200 sites having been assessed. The City will be announcing everyone’s local collection points from next week so that communities can begin preparing for that eventuality.
“We will also be making detailed Day Zero contingency plans available soon to answer all questions that residents and businesses might have.
“In terms of the City’s work, we have been working hard to reduce demand through advanced pressure management, massively ramping up the installation of water management devices at high consumption households.
“Our teams are also significantly intensifying the leak detection and repair programme, and we are rolling out education and awareness campaigns and extending our use of the treated effluent system which offsets the use of the drinking water for non-potable purposes.
“Teams are working around the clock to deliver the emergency plan for desalination, groundwater and water reuse. But, as I have already said, this alone will simply not be enough to avoid Day Zero without savings from all residents.
“Cape Town, this is the moment where we can bring about the fundamental behaviour change that is needed to save us all from running out of water.
“The time to act for everyone’s sake is now. So if we reduce the demand enough now, we can still get our water delivered to our houses and not have to queue daily for our allocation.”
Water strategist Anthony Turton expressed concern at the Mayor’s announcement:
“The statement released by the City of Cape Town today betrays the inner dynamics of the drama that has been playing out,” he said.
”The DA is slowly awakening from its slumber to realize that the flagship in their portfolio is now unavoidably going to run out of water and crash, but they are as yet incapable of fully comprehending the implications.
“The Mayor, belligerent as always, has vented her anger at the citizens’ response to her proposed drought levy.
“In effect they (the citizens) have delivered a vote of no confidence in her, even as her own party is uncertain about how to deal with her decisively.
“She blames the citizens for not doing enough. She even suggests, when reading between the lines, that the mayor’s heroic efforts to save the citizens from themselves now needs to be juiced up with more punishment for recalcitrant subjects.
“It’s mediaeval in its logic, based on the ire of a ruler whose subjects seem not to be deferential enough. Nowhere does it offer a glimmer of hope. Nowhere is there an iota of leadership. Nowhere is there any indication of awareness that a complex situation is playing itself out.
“As for empathy with the plight of citizens who have been squeezed dry by draconian but misguided measures, there is not a drop to be found.
“In the interim the story is becoming global, with journalists now being dispatched from distant lands to document to death throes of a city that once was the jewel in the DA’s crown.”