City of Cape Town puts squeeze on water shortage with Level 5 water restrictions, tourists encouraged to still visit!

On 3 September the City of Cape Town stepped up its water restrictions to the next level, announcing further severe water saving measures. Compared to the previous Level 4 B restrictions, the new Level 5 restrictions retain the daily water usage target per person at 87 liters, and step up restrictions on the commercial usage of water. Tourists to Cape Town and the province will not be turned away as a result of the drought! 

Despite the end of winter being in sight, the winter rainfall has been disappointing, with the storage dams supplying Cape Town and the surrounding area being at a devastating low 35% level, of which only 25 % is usable.  The City of Cape Town has provided feedback that its target water usage of 500 million liters per day is still being exceeded, by over 100 million liters daily, and its new restrictions focus on meeting the 500 million liters daily target to enable the city and its environs to get through the next summer. It is the commercial usage of water that has shown no decline, and in fact has increased, compared to the reduced water usage by the residential and industrial sectors. 

Multi-residential properties appear to be the water usage culprits, their water usage collectively now limited to 20000 liters per month. 

The City is restricting the supply of water to properties where the water usage is excessive, 50 such properties having been affected to date, hardly a large enough number to make any difference! 

The City’s pathetic explanation of the current water crisis is laughable: ‘It must be emphasised that the severity and duration of this drought could not have been predicted. As a city, we are managing the situation with absolutely every drought intervention that we have at our disposal. We have not let Cape Town down before and we do not intend to do so now. We need our residents to stand with us, to support us during these trying times, and to be constructive partners. We will only get through this by working together‘, said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services, and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

The media statement released by the City of Cape Town refers vaguely to ’emergency augmentation schemes’, but these are not explained. Desalination was promised to have been implemented by August, but there is no talk about desalination in recent City communication! 

The media statement is concluded with advice to residents to reduce their water flow by adjusting their stopcocks, and a reassurance that the water is safe to drink. 

Arriving at the airport from overseas two weeks ago, it was commendable to see a Water saving message aimed at international visitors (main photograph), devised by the Cape Town International airport, but I question the understandability of the message at the baggage claim area, where tourists are more interested in retrieving their bags, and the English language skills of the tourists may not be adequate to understand the implications of the message! 

The City of Cape Town had issued a ‘Think Water Calculator’, to help one calculate one’s water usage. So, for example, a 2 minute shower uses 20 liters of water, a toilet flush 9 liters, one sink of dish washing 9 liters, one hand and face wash 3 liters, one teeth brushing 0,15 litres, cooking one meal per day 0,60 litres, drinking water 1 liter, medium-sized pet drinking bowl 2 litres, a total of 44 liters in this example. 

According to Tourism Update, Wesgro has assured tourists that steps have been taken to reduce water consumption, and that water supplies will last through the tourist season, a bold promise! The Western Cape Government has emphasized that tourists will not be turned away from the province, and that there is no need to cancel any tourist reservations. It has also stated that it has ‘a comprehensive and dedicated disaster management plan in place, which would come into effect should the drought necessitate it’, but no details of the plan is provided or has been revealed elsewhere! A total of 2,5 million tourists is expected in the Cape this year. 

Tourism Update also reported that Tsogo Sun claims to have reduced its water usage at its hotels in Cape Town by ‘nearly 300000 liters a day in the past six months’! The article adds that the water saving was achieved whilst the average occupancy of the city hotels increased by 22%! The article claims that the hotel group’s Southern Sun Waterfront, Cullinan, and Southern Sun Newlands hotels have planned ‘desalination plants‘! One wonders how these hotels will pump seawater to their hotels, for the ‘desalination‘!  Perhaps the hotel group is confusing water recycling with desalination! The group is changing its showerheads to reduce the water flow, has issued signs regarding the water crisis at its Receptions, and provides suggestions to its guests as to how they can assist in saving water whilst staying at the hotels. Paper napkins have replaced material ones, and bedding now is only washed during a guest stay on request. The hotel group monitors its water usage constantly, and says that communication with guests is imperative. 

aha Hotels and Lodges is not topping up its hotel pools; hotel guests are advised in the rooms to use water sparingly; a chemical in the pools assists in reducing evaporation; at its Simon’s Town Quayside Hotel all baths have been converted into walk-in showers; and linen and towel washing requirements are now guest-based. The Century City Conference Centre and Hotel uses recycled water for its toilets; timers have been installed in its showers; taps in the public bathrooms have automatic timers; shower heads have built-in reducers; and posters throughout the building request staff and guests to reduce water usage. 

A report in Tourism Update states that conference and event venues, being commercial operations, and which are being specifically targeted in the new Level 5 water restrictions, ‘are working hard to reduce water consumption’, but no details are provided as to how this is being done. A survey conducted by the same online publication shows that just more than half of its readers’ businesses have been affected by the water restrictions. Again, no detail is provided as to the impact of these. The overwhelming majority (83%) of the readers said that the water restrictions had not caused a reduction in tourism numbers to Cape Town and surrounding areas. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: click here Instagram: @Chris_Ulmenstein


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