Lessons to keep Day Zero at bay

Northern suburbs schools, like those elsewhere across the metro, are playing their part to keep Day Zero out of the classroom.

Premier Helen Zille met with about 1 000 principals in Kuils River last week, where they discussed hygiene and fire safety at the schools as well as how they would source drinking water.

She said Day Zero could be avoided if all residents used less than 50 litres of water a person, a day.

Ms Zille, however, said the provincial government had to be ready to augment water supplies to schools, if consumption targets were not met and dam levels reached 13.5% before the winter rains.

“At this point, the City of Cape Town intends to turn off water to most areas in the metro, in order to manage and preserve the remaining supply. Our job is to make sure schools remain open and operational, with adequate alternative water supply to do so,” she said.

Ms Zille said the Western Cape Education Department and the Department of Transport and Public Works had surveyed the needs of schools extensively over the past six months.

“Our main focus now will be on ensuring that schools have the additional facilities they need to source, store and use augmented water supplies, up to and beyond the anticipated Day Zero,” she said.

Kenridge Primary School principal Sandy Smith said they had initiated water-saving measures last year already. Pupils and staff take their own drinking water to school – filling up at school if needed. Buckets are placed under taps to catch water for field irrigation and there are hand sanitisers in the bathrooms.

The school has closed half the toilets in the grades 4 to 7 bathrooms. The rest are connected to rainwater tanks for flushing. At The Settlers High School, staff and pupils take their own water, use of the swimming pool has been limited, some taps have been closed, and hand sanitisers are being used. The school also has a borehole.

Principal Shereen Gallie said the school, which has about 1300 pupils, would look at installing more water tanks, harvesting rainwater from the roof, using grey-water flushing systems and rationing water.

Ms Gallie said the water shortages would not affect the school’s daily academic operations.

Kenridge Primary School installed two boreholes recently – it now has three. The school had used borehole water to irrigate its fields but is now using it to flush toilets.

Ms Smith said the extra boreholes would be used for similar purposes and there was no irrigation taking place at the school.

“We are very aware that we have to use this water carefully and responsibly in order to conserve groundwater,” she said.

The school has about 1 940 pupils from pre-Grade R to Grade 7.

Ms Smith said the school would have 10 more rainwater tanks on campus by the end of the term, in addition to the two it already had.

“We anticipate having to cancel big sporting events at least for the second term. We anticipate that sports practices and some matches will still be able to go ahead,” said Ms Smith.

The Western Province Cricket Association Local Leagues Cricket Committee decided that all school cricket matches should be suspended due to the prevailing drought.

On Monday February 5, the City said Day Zero had been pushed back to mid-May due to a decline in agricultural usage.