Lessons to beat Day Zero

Helen Zille addresses the media.

Western Cape schools will remain open even if Day Zero happens, vows Premier Helen Zille.

She gave this assurance when she met with more than 1000 school principals at the Western Cape Sport School in Kuils River last week.

Ms Zille assured them the water crisis was being managed effectively, and she urged them to save more water.

Some school principals have shared their plans to avert a water crisis.

Hector Peterson High School principal Mike Mavovana, said the Kraaifontein school had already started a water-saving project in partnership with Shoprite and Stellenbosch University.

“The school has been campaigning for behaviour change among its learners since the beginning of drought. This campaign is carried out both in every assembly and every class,” he said.

The school switches off its water supply at night to prevent waste and plans to acquire water tanks.

Ms Zille said when the dams reached 13.5%, the City would turn off the water supply to residential areas, but the schools would continue to be supplied with water, even by tanker, if necessary.

Security guards might have to be posted at some schools to prevent them from being preyed on by water thieves, she said.

She urged schools to continue using water sparingly.

Bernadino Heights High School principal Deon Wertheim, said the school’s water-saving efforts corresponded with what Ms Zille had asked of them.

“We embrace what the premier has said and we will play our role in ensuring Day Zero is averted,” he said.

The school was preparing to sink a borehole, he said, to supply non-potable water for toilet flushing, and pupils were taking their own water to school. “We have encouraged learners to use grey water at home to fill up their cisterns and to get their household to stick to to under 50 litres per person, per day,” he said.

Ms Zille said the Cape Town’s water usage had been brought down to 2002 levels when there had been 30% fewer people in the city.

Water usage, she said, had gone from 1.2 billion litres a day at the start of the crisis to 600 million litres a day, and demand was now dropping further to 550 million litres a day.

Ms Zille said Day Zero would be unlikely to happen if water usage could drop to 450 million litres a day.

Scottsdene High School principal Karel Cupido said the school had had problems with its borehole – a contractor had assured him the school’s irrigation system would draw only from the borehole and not the municipal supply but the school’s water bill had indicated otherwise.

He said he was investigating and pleaded with the WCED and Premier’s Office for help to resolve the issue.

“The school’s plan has been to ensure that all its irrigation system draws water from its borehole, and use municipal water only for drinking,” he said.