This week the city’s drought crisis team, led by DA leader Mmusi Maimane, said at a press conference that the metro’s water supply would not be suspended this year depending on favourable winter rain patterns and residents’ reduced consumption.
Level 6B water restrictions, however, will remain in place in Cape Town. The announcement was received with mixed reactions from locals and internationals who have been carefully monitoring the Day Zero situation.
In his address, Maimane said the city is hopeful Day Zero will be avoided altogether this year, so long as there is decent rainfall this season and residents keep saving water.
While there are many unanswered questions, we chatted to Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson to give readers a clearer vision of why Day Zero has been moved indefinitely and the implications thereof. Here’s what he had to say about the water crisis.
Q: What does Day Zero being pushed back indefinitely mean for Cape Town and the water crisis?
A: It means that Level 6B restrictions are proving to be adequate to deal with the crisis this year, and that we will not have to move to Level 7 restrictions. It is essential that we keep to the 6B restrictions for at least the rest of the summer, and probably deep into winter.
Q: Has Day Zero been pushed back because the water augmentation plans will be enough to augment the current low dam levels?
A: It is primarily due to the drop in water consumption from both the urban and agricultural sectors, and therefore a slower drop in dam levels. The augmentation schemes will mostly come on line over the next few months and also contribute to assisting dam levels before and during the winter rainfall.
Q: People are likening Day Zero to load-shedding. Is Day Zero a stunt to hike up water tariffs?
A: Day Zero is certainly no hoax. We have a water supply crisis and only those who are deliberately blind cannot see that we could run out of water if we do not manage our consumption adequately. We had to ensure that if the dam levels dropped too far, that we would be ready with the massive disaster management exercise that we would have to carry out, and thus project by when that would be required. The crisis puts the City’s water income into a deficit. We would not deliberately fail to sell water if we had more to sell, as that would provide more income than increasing tariffs.
Q: What message does Day Zero being pushed back indefinitely convey to the public? Won’t this message relax water-saving efforts?
A: The key is that we have to remain on Level 6B restrictions to survive this year. All that the Day Zero message means is that we do not see that we would need to Level 7 restrictions.
Q: What message should we convey to our readers regarding the indefinite postponement of Day Zero?
A: We are still in a water crisis. We have to continue saving if we are to get through this year without running out of water.
Picture: Sean Dollery / HSM Images