DWS urges use of alternative water sources

People should look to alternative sources for their water needs, including groundwater, stormwater management, recycling and desalination.

As drought continues to grip the Western Cape, people should look to alternative sources for their water needs.

During a media briefing last week in Bellville on the province’s water situation, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) urged consumers to urgently explore alternative water sources, such as groundwater, stormwater management, recycling and desalination, are just some of those options, the department said.

According to a March 9 hydrological report done by DWS, the Western Cape water supply is at 62.11%, compared to 51.63% for the same time last year.

We call upon citizens to reduce demand; explore alternative water sources without delay, and to fix leaks in industry, agriculture and households immediately when they are discovered,” said head of the department, Rashid Khan.

The day before the briefing, the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) and GEOSS held an open day at the University of the Western Cape.

They are looking for businesses and residents who have a borehole to become part of its Groundwater Citizen Science Project. The project will initially focus on two geographical areas, the Newlands spring and brewery and the Epping and Parow industrial areas and surrounds.

WWF-SA’s water stewardship programme manager, Klaudia Schachtschneider, believes that we are not out of the woods concerning water availability.

Last season gave us below-average rainfall again, and the only reason the Cape Town water supplies were adequate was the altered water demand and use in the city.

During last year’s drought, many households and businesses switched to using alternate sources of water such as grey water, rain water and groundwater, says Ms Schachtschneider.

“This project will aid us to understand what is happening to Cape Town’s aquifers. How many boreholes were put in? How much water draw-off is? How the aquifer responds to pumping and rainfall and is it sustainable or at a rate that threatened its viability over the long term?”

Geoss hydrologist, Preana Naicker said many people mistakenly believed they owned the water under their property, but groundwater belonged to the citizens of South Africa, and national and local government was its custodian.

Geoss director, Dale Barrow, said Cape Town would need groundwater to get through the inevitability of another drought. And over-extraction of groundwater could be a critical threat to water availability during a time of crisis.

Mr Barrow said they were looking for homeowners, site managers, pupils, students and businesses to get involved. A water logger would be fitted to the borehole to identify fluctuations in usage. The data would be retrieved about four times a year.

Mr Barrow said every borehole owner should be manually monitoring their water usage and for this data to be logged by them.

Ms Schachtschneider assures that this is not a policing method and that volunteers are supplying data for the greater good to understand where aquifer water levels stand. It’s not about usage but aquifer response, she says.

She said all participants’ locations and names would be confidential.

There are currently about 210 people participating in the project.

Mr Barrow said two companies had signed up for the project at the open day, the Airports Company of SA (ACSA) and Neopak in Epping Industria. The companies had not confirmed this by the time of going to print.

National DWS spokesman, Sputnik Ratau, said that while the Western Cape water situation was healthier than in previous years, it should not lead to complacency.

March is Water Month and this year’s theme is “Water and Climate Change”.

For more information about the Groundwater Citizen Science Project, contact Klaudia Schachtschneider at KSchachtschneider@wwf.org.za or 021 657 6600 or Dale Barrow at dbarrow@geoss.co.za or 021 880 1079.