Cape Town is bracing for a humanitarian crisis with fewer than 80 days to go before it becomes the first major city in the world to run out of water.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille met with the army, the police, National Disaster Management the State Security Agency, among others, at the Provincial Disaster Management Centre, at Tygerberg Hospital, on Monday, to discuss contingency plans.
She has also written to President Jacob Zuma, warning the drought had gone “from a threat to an imminent crisis” and urging him to declare a national disaster.
Meanwhile, work has started on the 200 collection points across the city where Capetonians will go for their daily 25-litre water ration, under armed guard, after the taps run dry.
Last week, council voted to ratchet up water restrictions to Level 6B from February 1, only a month after Level 6 restrictions started on January 1. Level 6B rations residents to 50 litres a day or 6 000 litres a household a month.
A planned drought levy was scrapped in favour of punitive tariffs with exponentially higher rates for those using more than 6 000 litres.
A household bill will jump from R28.44 to R145.98 at the 6 000-litre mark.
A household using 50 000 litres will pay thousands of rand more: R2 888.81 to R20 619.57.
In a sternly worded statement last week, mayor Patricia de Lille warned the city had “reached a point of no return” and that Day Zero was now “very likely” to happen on April 21 because 60% of Capetonians were still “callously” using more than 87 litres a day.
Then on Monday, Day Zero jumped to Thursday April 12.
Natalie Khambi, the secretary of the Northpine City Improvement District (CID), said the City should have done more to help residents save water.
“The City’s been very active in penalising the poor for excessive consumption and limiting their water usage with water meters that they have to pay a lot of money for. It would be interesting to know whether the same force and penalties are applied to the affluent residents living in the shadows of Table Mountain who can actually afford a meter,” she said.
Kuils River Civic Association’s chairman Isaac Jenecke feels Kuils River residents are ill-prepared for the coming crisis.
“We are being told there is no water, yet no visible team is around the community dealing with the issue and the fears of people.
“The senior management of the City should have been more proactive with this problem and have shown better leadership.”
Dawn Roode, a Kuils River community activist, said the City had had ample warning about the crisis, but instead of doing more to head it off it was putting people “under pressure”.
Leon Brynard, a Brackenfell resident and manager of the Vredekloof CID, has installed water tanks to collect rainwater, which he will use to flush his toilets.
“My concern is that with no rain, my tanks will also reach Day Zero.”
Mr Brynard said people in the community were looking at ways to help one another once Day Zero hit.
“The new limit of 50 litres per person per day is very little, but if one really works sparingly with your water, it is possible.
“We must just remember that after Day Zero we will only get 25 litres water per person per day, which we will have to collect somewhere, but we don’t know where yet.
“For now, the most import thing is to save as much water as you can. If we all do our bit and adhere to Level 6B water restrictions, it is possible that Day Zero can be postponed.
“It is, however, a challenge, because mayor Patricia de Lille had put residents at ease every time she said that ‘a well-run city will not be without water’.”