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STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE

The following speech will be made by City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, during the full Council meeting today, 31 May 2017.

Good morning, goeie dag, molweni, as-salaam alaikum, shalom.

Mr Speaker,

Water is a vitally important resource in an urban environment.

It keeps our people healthy and hydrated; it is an input into economic production processes that support jobs and exports; and it ensures that our eco-systems are vibrant and supportive of all life.

Water is not to be taken for granted. To run out of useable water is to be presented with a crisis of catastrophic proportions.

Over many decades, engineers and planners have built the water supply infrastructure in the city and in the surrounding areas that has served us well. This infrastructure and the associated water management techniques have previously navigated Cape Town through drought periods.

The drought we are currently experiencing is the most stubborn in recent history. It is a significant shock to the fabric our city and accentuates many other underlying stresses such as urbanisation.

We have had water restrictions in place since 2005, which were intensified in December 2015 – 18 months ago. These restrictions have gotten progressively tighter, which is the accepted technique of matching demand with availability during extended periods of low rainfall.And as per practice over many decades, we have relied on winter rainfall to replenish the dam system that satisfies our water needs.

Two days ago we announced that dam storage levels are now at 19,7%, which is 0,8% down from a week ago. With the last 10% of a dam’s water mostly not being useable, dam levels are effectively at 9,7%.

Capetonians have progressively reduced their water use, and we are thankful to everyone who has made a concerted effort to use water more efficiently and carefully.

We are now achieving daily use of about 666 million litres of water, against a current target of 600 million litres.

I am disappointed that the target is not being met, and I know there is room for improvement from many people who may not yet understand the serious situation this city is in.

At this point in time it is important to take stock of the situation. It is important to test our assumptions on how we traditionally manage water in the city. What has worked very well in the past may not be the best model going forward.

And importantly we need a new relationship with risk. Climate change, most notably, adds significant uncertainty. The models are in flux.

We nevertheless understand the impacts of climate change, some of which are devastating. Feedback loops add complexity.

This means making some decisions in the context of unpredictability.

We cannot be sure whether it will rain this winter. We have gone through May with nothing much to show with regard to rainfall.

June might be better, but the point is we do not know. The confidence in weather prediction is low.

We need a new relationship with water. The days of plentiful water supply in Cape Town may very well be over.

And even if abundance emerges in one or two years from now, we cannot be sure it will last.

Times of abundance should be regarded as the anomaly in the system, not times of scarcity.

We need to embrace the fact that water scarcity is the The New Normal and all our future planning must accept that we are living in a drought-stricken area.

We all need to change our approach to scarcity. It does not mean that our lives should be diminished or the economy negatively affected.

The New Normal is an opportunity for us to significantly change our approach to water.

It is about building resilience, which is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kind of stresses and acute shocks they experience.

We need to rethink our over-reliance on surface water and increasingly embrace more non-surface water options such as water reuse and desalination.

We need improved design and innovation with regard to water use and reuse in both public infrastructure and, private households and businesses.

And we need an improved public understanding of water. Water does not come from a tap but through an expensive process.

Resilience is one of the key principles included in the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for 2017 – 2022 which was passed yesterday by Council.

In March this year Council approved the appointment of the City’s first ever Chief Resilience Officer, Mr Craig Kesson.

While we will over the period going forward develop a comprehensive resilience strategy, there is no doubt that the first area of work is on water.

A key objective of the IDP passed yesterday was improving resource efficiency and security.

Our ongoing sustainability as a city and the continued cost-effectiveness of our economy implores us to take action to ensure conditions required for sustained operation.

Also our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) binds us to improve forward planning and make continual business improvements.

The New Normal requires a new way of doing business. If the system shifts, or if old methodologies do not deliver the required results, you change course of action.

If you always plan the same way, you will always get to the same result. We must change our methodology of planning right now.

This is what I am proposing today. This is how a responsible, modern, forward looking government works.

I am today announcing a new and heightened response to the drought, a response which will mitigate the short term possibility of acute water shortages and ensure that we build a water resilient city in the medium- to long-term.

Council will consider a move to Level 4 water restrictions today. This prohibits the use of potable water outside of the house and it implores each of us to use no more than 100 litres of water each day. Think 100 litres.

I request our residents to think carefully how they use water each day.

Each of us must create our own personal water budgets.

We must consider how long we are going to shower each day, how many times we are going to flush the toilet, and how much water we will use for cooking and cleaning.

We are in a critical situation and to build resilience to acute water shortages we need to push even harder and reduce water usage city-wide to 500 million litres of water per day.

It might be very hard and very difficult now but the risk of running out of water is even more disastrous.

I request every Capetonian to push harder than ever before. But as Council will not meet until the end of July, I am also requesting Council to support further restrictions, 4B, that can be implemented in the next 60 days.

Such restrictions would be more closely aligned with a 500 million litre per day goal, and would be consequently more restrictive.

Further driving down demand provides us with more time to institute alternative water augmentation solutions.

But there will from now on need to be more emphasis as well on reducing supply into the system through a number of mechanisms.

This will be done in a responsible way to protect the integrity of the supply infrastructure.

Council is already well aware of the various small scale augmentation schemes that are currently being put in place to increase non-surface supply options.

These include drawing water from the Table Mountain Group aquifer and the Cape Flats aquifer and small-scale desalination at Koeberg, among other things.

It is now evident that more temporary water augmentation solutions need to be brought online to augment supply even further.

Over the next four weeks we will work tirelessly to bring online even more modular desalination and water reuse options.

Emergency procurement mechanism will be used to source more water. All procurement will be done speedily and in within the confines the law.

We will do everything possible to ensure that no matter the state of rainfall over the coming months and indeed over the next year, we must have enough water available to not drop below 500 Ml per day.

I am today suggesting to Council that a Water Resilience Task team is established under the leadership of the Chief Resilience Officer.

This task team will lead a new, urgent programmatic approach to water in the city.

It will work to avoid any acute water shortages by bringing online even more water augmentation projects.

It will work with the Disaster Management Department to improve the state of readiness in case there are acute water shortages and it will start to put in place the mechanisms for the fundamental rethinking of our approach to water over the long-term.

I would also like to ask Council to support the establishment of a Water Resilience Advisory Committee in the form of a Section 80 committee which will give advice to the Water Resilience Task Team and to myself as the Executive Mayor.

This committee will include a variety of stakeholders and experts, ranging from academics to members of communities.

This advisory committee will be chaired by Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

Please know that I will personally champion these new initiatives, and I will report back to Council on decisions taken and refinements to plan and initiatives.

Building water resilience is now our most important goal.

We will start working today to not only ensure we do not have acute water shortages, but to ensure that we never find ourselves in this situation ever again.

Councillors, people of Cape Town, there may be some difficult times ahead with regards to water use and availability, but rather some difficulties now than perpetual difficulties in our future.

My commitment is that we will do everything possible to ensure that this city thrives and flourishes. But that starts with a new understanding and respect for the scarcity of water and The New Normal.

I thank you, God bless.

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