Premier Zille announces Western Cape a water disaster area: too little too late?


Today Premier Helen Zille announced that the Western Cape has been declared a disaster area, given our province’s worst drought since 1904. Given that the dams supplying Cape Town collectively only have about 20% water left, one wonders what took her so long to make this declaration! The declaration is yet to be gazetted!

The Premier has labeled the province’s campaign as ‘Avoiding Day Zero’, a laughable slogan if one considers how dire the water supply situation is. It is described as a strategy to ‘ensure that taps do not run dry’. The declaration covers a three-month period, and ‘can be extended, if the need arises’! One wonders which planet Premier Zille and her provincial Cabinet is on? Surely they cannot think that the winter rainfall, of which there has been a minimal amount so far, will magically fill our radically depleted dams!  One just needs to see photographs of the Theewaterskloof Dam (above) to understand how drastic the water shortage is. In fact, May temperatures so far this month feel to be above average, some days reaching 30C and beyond! 

The province’s water campaign is to focus on three aspects: 

#   managing the precious current water supply 

#   a winter water conservation campaign, aimed at retaining water from winter rainfall

#   managing groundwater 

Given this focus, the Premier has announced the following immediate steps to alleviate the water shortage:

#   Drilling boreholes at hospitals and schools in ‘high-risk water scare areas’

#   Environmental Impact Assessments for the testing of a mobile desalination plant, ‘using existing water inlet flows used for the reactors at the Koeberg site‘, and ‘drilling into the Table Mountain aquifer’. One would have thought that such environmental impact assessments would have long been completed, given the warnings more than a year ago that the Western Cape would face a critical water shortage, given the poor winter rain last year! 

#   Appointing groundwater specialists in each district, to identify key groundwater resources, and explore and manage these. One wonders why such specialists have not yet been appointed?

#  Assessing the water restrictions in each of the province’s municipalities, and their suitability, the Premier having the power to amend these in terms of the disaster declaration. 

The City of Cape Town, collectively the largest user of water of all municipalities in the province, has just introduced level 4 water restrictions, limiting water usage to 100 liters per person over day; banning all outside use of water including for watering the garden and washing cars; and prohibiting swimming pool topping up.  

While I have the greatest respect for Premier Zille, I cannot understand nor condone the tardiness of the Western Cape provincial government in having waited until the last minute in taking action regarding this dire water situation! Come on Western Cape government – you have done us proud in the past in positioning our province as the best in the country. Don’t let us down now, in the 11th water hour! 

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


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