Cape Town water disaster: Burning issue presenting opportunity

It’s the start of a new morning; you get into your car, switch on the radio and the presenter is doing the water dam level update. On the highway, you notice the flickering variable information sign and as you slowly get closer to it as you brave the Cape Town traffic the message reads: “WATER CRISIS – DAM LEVELS AT 10.2%, ONLY USE WATER FOR DRINKING, COOKING AND NECESSARY WASHING”

You hear alarms in the distance and glance at the rear-view mirror, vehicles are making way for the fire truck to pass. There must be another fire close by – “the earth is dry and we’ve been struggling with an exceptional high rate of fires this season, the firemen has done excellent work” you think by yourself.

Cape Town has recently been declared a disaster area; experiencing the worst drought since 1904.

Many factors have contributed to this concerning matter amongst which includes the changing weather patterns and population growth[1] The picture is gloomy and with prayer that the winter rains would come soon enough and that the alternative disaster management plans would prevent us reaching “day zero”[2].

We can blame the politicians, the government officials and planning departments; but the blame game will just fan the flame. Instead we can be proactive and make use of the opportunity that is presented.

John F Kennedy said: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.”

With great distress comes opportunity and several opportunities are showing themselves in this time of water scarcity – opportunities for informing, educating, and influencing Cape Townians to action and a wiser water usage future.

Not to water down the truth in any way we are in a major crisis. I believe the authorities and media have done a respectable job at informing the population of the crises and ways to save water. If you haven’t seen the billboards, heard the radio updates or been exposed to social media on this topic this might be your wake-up call to let you know we have an average of 10%-15% usable water left.[3] June saw the implementation of level 4 water restrictions and water tariff hikes, which will increase the economic strain on our pockets.

How can you help and what opportunities are there that you can implement to make a difference in the long run?

Report & Fix: Water Leaks

WWF SA in the issue 2016 Water: Facts and Futures[4] reported that up to 37% of water is being lost due to leaks and illegal usage. Reporting leaks and burst pipes is of vital importance.

Reporting and fixing the urban water infrastructure will not only prevent unnecessary losses in this time of immediate water need, but also benefit your financial situation in the future.

Optimise: Home Water Saving Improvements

The internet is inundated with initiatives to convert your property into a smart water usage home.

To mention a few:

  • Swimming pool cover: not only is this a water saving improvement, but also a safety consideration if you a have a young family.
  • Greywater system: many inexpensive system are available to use your washing machine and other grey water for irrigation purposes.
  • Rainwater harvesting: purchase a few tanks to capture rainwater runoff from your roof.
  • Water wise garden: research indigenous plants, trade your organic lawn for an impressive looking, maintenance-free turf?
  • Bathroom upgrade: If you are living in an older home and have been contemplating that much needed bathroom upgrade, now is the time. Even if it’s local improvement in the form of a toilet upgrade, older toilets use much more water. A shower head and tap upgrade, all of these collectively will make a big difference.

Not only will these improvements prove useful in saving water in this time where it is so badly needed and so save you immediate money with the tariff hikes, but it will also save you water and money in the future.

Diversify: Water sources

On a national perspective, South Africa is dependent on surface water sources for 77% of its water.[5] If you know something about risk management, you know that having all your eggs in one basket is not a clever idea so, diversifying the investment is what you want to do.

77% Is a sizable percentage on a fluctuating source of rainfall runoff in a water scarce country.

How do you diversify your residential water resources?

  • Explore the option of drilling a borehole. This will most likely increase the value of your property together with the savings benefit.
  • Keep your eyes open to new innovative ways of sourcing water. One source that is worth exploring is the utility that converts moisture in the air to drinkable water. [6]

Invest: Investment opportunities

Greencape is a non-profit organisation focused on growing the market for green opportunities. I would recommend reading their Water Sector Market Intelligence Report which “highlights business opportunities for water in the green economy in the Western Cape. It targets investors and entrepreneurs interested in the business of water, and seeks to promote the Western Cape as the leading place to do business in the green economy.”

Good opportunities worth exploring in this report include:

Water reuse, recycling and resource recovery

  • Energy used for water treatment and conveyance, and water used for energy generation
  • Understanding and managing consumption by utilities and end-users
  • Using rain, storm and greywater; seeking new groundwater resources; managed aquifer recharge; as well as brackish and seawater desalination.
  • Reducing municipal water losses is a national priority; significant resource and financial benefits can be realised at any urban and system scale

The water scarcity struggle is real, but we have the opportunity to make decisions that has the potential to impact the way that we do things currently; shifting our minds from water consumers to water-wise users.

Most importantly we continue to pray and trust that the good Lord will bless us with good rains during the winter season.

God bless,


How to help prevent (1)








Adam Spires




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