Many areas of South Africa are experiencing drought conditions, with Cape Town experiencing the worst droughts in its recorded history.
The ACDP wishes to commend all residents and visitors to Cape Town and other drought-stricken areas for being good stewards of water and, in the case of Capetonians, for significantly reducing their water usage to avoid Day Zero.
We also wish to thank the farming community from the Elgin/Grabouw valley who contributed millions of liters of water to the Steenbras Dam , from where it will be pumped to City residents.
The big question is could this crisis have been avoided by better planning and implementation from national, provincial and local spheres of government?
While Cape Town’s previous Water Demand management programme worked well during drought conditions in 2004 and 2005, that programme could only work when there was sufficient rainfall. We have had an extended period of below-average rain fall, resulting in the worst drought in Cape Town’s history.
What has made the situation worse is that the national Department of Water and Sanitation failed to maintain strategic canals feeding dams, such as the canals flowing in to Voelvlei dam – which is an important source of water both for the City of Cape Town and towns on the drought-stricken West Coast. This reportedly resulted in an estimated loss of 7.5 million cubic meters of water in 2016 as well as losses in 2017. Regrettably, we understand that the sluice gates are still not being properly maintained on these canals, which will lead to further losses when the winter rains fall.
Furthermore, the chaotic state of finances at the national Waters Affairs department – with workers on strike in protest – has resulted in money intended for much-needed infrastructure maintenance across the country being used to pay salaries. We are now reaping the results of this with water shortages being experienced across the country.
The City of Cape Town has pursued three bulk water solutions – ground water /aquifer abstraction; desalination; and water re-use. These are same three bulk water solutions the City has committed to many times before, but regrettably never implemented in time.
The City has a Bulk Water division that spends capital budget and operational budget on new water services infrastructure, renewal of water services infrastructure, upgrading of water services infrastructure and repairs and maintenance of water services infrastructure.
For the last 10 years, however, the City underspent its capital budget on water services infrastructure by R720 million. This has contributed to the present water crisis.
While we acknowledge that there are no easy solutions to the water crisis, the ACDP believes that the millions of litres of water from the natural underground Table Mountain streams be harvested for human consumption.
Additionally, as a long-term project, rainwater and grey water harvesting devices should be installed in all households and new housing developments, and that subsidies should be given for the fitting of these devices into private properties in the same way that energy saving devices are being installed and subsidised to reduce electricity consumption.
Tourists and visitors must continue to be welcomed in Cape Town as they contribute significantly to our economy. However, hotel guests and staff should be made aware of water-saving measures introduced at hotels and asked to assist with using water sparingly.
While we are praying and trusting for rain for drought-stricken areas, we must be good stewards of the water we do have at this time.
SPEECH BY: STEVE SWART MP
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: The water crisis in the Western Cape, the City of Cape Town in particular, and in other provinces, and the impact it has on the country as a result of drought, global warming and other contributing factors.
8 March 2018