In recent weeks, some residents have raised concerns about the number of events being hosted in the city. The perception is that event participants will place an even bigger strain on the city’s scarce water resources than we are already experiencing, and that this limited supply should be saved for local consumption.
As the reality of Day Zero starts to take root, it is leading to a sense of unease and panic among many Capetonians who have now, more than ever, become increasingly protective of this precious resource.
“Under these circumstances it is important that this perception is placed in perspective. I can confidently say that event organisers and the film industry have risen to the challenge and are pulling out all the stops to save our potable water.” says Alderman JP Smith
” While we must acknowledge the economic and social benefits that these industries bring to our shores, the City is also ensuring that they are operating sustainably and are not placing a burden on our scarce resources, especially water. It is important to get this balance right: ensuring the sustainable supply of water and balancing this against supporting our economy and creating employment for people. Nothing would worsen the water crisis more than reducing employment opportunities and the job losses which this will entail.”
The City has introduced additional criteria for events and film permit applications and each organiser has to state upfront what their plans are to make use of alternate water sources or minimise their use of the city’s potable water. The City is asking the events and film industry to play their role in adapting to this crisis.
In addition, it must be borne in mind that events and film productions have long value chains. The hospitality industry has already implemented measures to reduce consumption at their establishments (hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and tourist attractions) that are frequented by locals and visitors to our shores, all of whom will be subject to the same water saving measures.
The events and film industries must also be acknowledged for their water saving initiatives. I would like to cite a few examples of how these industries have adapted their operations to meet the stringent requirements of the water crisis:
Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon
• Water for the race day has been sourced from a natural spring, allocated and approved by the National Department of Water and Sanitation. This water will be used in the sachet and non-sachet water delivery system for all race participants.
• The event organiser has engaged with runners to use hydration packs and to fill up at the start of the race instead of using their daily household allocation of potable water.
• Of special note is the use of recycled water for ice to keep the race water sachets cool – kept in sealed bags and marked ‘not for consumption’.
• All sponsors and sponsor partners have been requested to invest in similar strategies. A key decision has been taken to remove all showers for after the race. Caterers have committed to supplying their staff and crew with liquid refreshments that include bottled water. Water from the spring supply will be used in food preparation, and grey water will be utilised in clean-up operations after the event concludes.
• All chemical toilets brought to the various sites will have certified recycled water from the respective service providers.
• Participants will be bound by the water savings initiatives of the event’s venue partners and accommodation sponsors.
Cape Town Cycle Tour
• Water will be brought in from outside the province for drinking and ice on the route. Locally produced desalinated water will be used for all cleansing purposes. The number of water stations along the route will be reduced to 14 essential stations, which are necessary from a medical point of view.
• In addition, suppliers to the cycle tour will sign service level agreements that specify their usage and where their water will be sourced. Suppliers will not be allowed to use water from the city’s grid.
As a labour-intensive industry that usually has a large crew, the film industry has implemented significant water savings initiatives that are yielding positive results:
• Table cloths have been replaced with reusable plastic table covers that can be wiped clean. This has reduced water usage from 10 litres to 50 ml per table cloth translating into savings of 500 litres per day. Approximately 15 000 litres of water is saved monthly.
• Biodegradable and disposable crockery and cutlery have replaced non-disposable items. This shift has cut consumption for washing dishes to about 250 litres per day from 1 500 litres which was used previously. Approximately 45 000 litres of potable water has been saved monthly.
• Miscellaneous water saving measures include steaming instead of boiling and reusing boiled water to clean the kitchen and toilets. Kitchens are equipped with alcohol sanitizers for washing hands, and the grey water from frozen goods is used to clean floors. All of these measures have realised a saving of 30 000 litres per month.
The events and film industries provide enormous benefit to the local economy. Eight of the signature events hosted in the city annually contribute more than R3 billion to the local economy and create more than 20 000 temporary jobs.
The film industry contributes approximately R5 billion to the local economy annually and has created more than 35 000 jobs over a three-year period.
While some of the jobs related to these industries are temporary, they afford people the opportunity to gain experience and acquire skills for future permanent employment.
Given the scale of the City’s supply system, it is unlikely that tourists visiting Cape Town for sporting events will have any noticeable impact on overall consumption. They would only account for a tiny fraction of overall usage.
While the City appreciates the concern of residents, we cannot take a blanket decision to shut down these two industries that collectively contribute over R8 billion annually to the local economy that benefits small business owners. Being labour-intensive industries, there will be serious consequences that will be detrimental to many residents’ livelihoods if these sectors are curtailed.
The City would like to thank the many players in the hospitality industry who have gone to great lengths to minimise water consumption by guests. Some of their efforts include removing plugs from baths and placing signage at strategic points advising of the water crisis and encouraging guests to support the City’s efforts, for example by not having towels/linen changed daily, but rather only when necessary.
My call to visitors making their way to the city is to ‘save like a local.’