Drought Crisis: World Water Day Shows Need To Continue To Tap All Resources

As we commemorate World Water Day, with its theme ‘wastewater’, it is apparent that we are at a tipping point where our behaviour and way that we view all water sources must start changing – not only because of a drought but as a long-term goal of becoming a more water-sensitive city.

During this time of drought, the total volume of water saved since January 2016 (since the start of Level 2 restrictions) to February 2017 is equivalent to the volume of the Wemmershoek Dam. By the end of May 2017 we therefore hope to have saved the equivalent volume of the larger Berg River Dam.

We’ve seen Capetonian residences and businesses show what they are capable of. In our own operations we have continued to introduce efficiencies and innovative approaches to saving water and tapping all of our available resources. But we need to do more, now and going into our immediate and long-term future. Cape Town is situated in a water-scarce region and climate change will continue to exacerbate our situation.

Our relationship with water must change. It is changing already, largely due to the drought. But, the danger exists that, when the first proper winter rain comes, we will revert back to our old behaviours. If this were to happen, we would be setting ourselves up for failure.

The City is already an internationally lauded player in the water management sector and this includes our wastewater treatment management. It is therefore apt that the theme for this day is wastewater – a resource that we must explore to its full potential going forward. We also encourage our residents to look at the increased use of greywater systems in their own homes.

We are committed to becoming a world leader in tapping into wastewater as a valuable resource for our needs. In line with the City’s new Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) – a process that we are implementing which will transform the work of this organisation in order to transform lives – we will continue to use innovation to ensure that we approach water resource management in a holistic manner.

It is therefore such an honour to have hosted our young water-sensitive minds today from Firgrove Primary School at our Faure Wastewater Treatment Plant. It is only when we start to understand from a young age how we need to look into all of our resources that we will become a stronger and more sustainable city going forward.

Currently, approximately 6% of our wastewater is recycled for non-potable use. As this is such a valuable resource, together with all of our other interventions, we foresee the contribution of recycled water to our water resources as a whole growing significantly over the coming years. Over the short- to medium-term, we plan to implement the first phase of our pilot scheme for water reclamation for potable use. It will be a shift in how we see the contribution that wastewater can make to our potable water needs.

I thank all residents and organisations for their initiatives to save water and for joining us across the metro today to show their commitment to this water journey that we have embarked on, not only as users but as active participants and water ambassadors.

Residents can contact the City via email to water.restrictions@capetown.gov.za for queries or to report contraventions (evidence should be provided to assist the City’s enforcement efforts) or they can send an SMS to 31373.

For further information, residents should please visit the water restrictions page on the City’s website: www.capetown.gov.za/thinkwater

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