STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S EXECUTIVE MAYOR, PATRICIA DE LILLE
Note to editors: the following speech was delivered by City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, at the City and its partners’ Energy, Water and Waste Forum at the Cape Town International Convention Centre today, 19 October 2017.
Good morning, goeie dag, molweni, as-salaam alaikum, shalom.
It is a privilege to address such a large group of business leaders at a crucial stage of actions needed to navigate our way through an unprecedented drought crisis.
You are the men and women who contribute to driving our economy and who create and sustain jobs. For that I applaud you.
For some time now, we have been positioning Cape Town as a forward-looking, globally competitive business city. Our city is a great place to live, work, visit, play and invest in.
In recent times our economic growth has outperformed the national average. That is due to the creativity and resilience of our business leaders, and due to the enabling environment and infrastructure supported by the city government.
I am appealing to that sense of creativity and resilience among you to help us safely navigate the drought.
Thank you to all the businesses who have done much to save water and drive down their consumption. But today my call to action to business is that we need your help to do much more to save water. The future of our city and all our lives and your business depends on it.
I ask that you join us in taking on a variety of actions to reduce consumption and help us enhance our water resilience.
I also want to challenge the business community to come to the table and invest in building a water resilient Cape Town.
Over the past few weeks and months, the City has announced and provided updates on our Water Resilience Plan, combining measures to reduce demand and bringing alternative sources to augment our water supplies online.
The impacts of climate change are being harshly felt as we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation which none of us has seen our lifetime, with way below average rainfall for the third winter in a row.
As a result, the City scrapped its old 30-year water plan and adopted a new scenario called the New Normal where we are no longer relying on only rainwater to fill our dams, but understand that we require a fundamental change in our behaviour with water – an increasingly scarce resource.
The New Normal also means changing our thinking and methodology of planning as we can no longer rely on old systems which served us well in their time. It is now time to change our thinking and planning with regard to water.
Our new Water Resilience Plan is on a scale that has never been done before and we need to mobilise a high level of support to make it work.
As a City, we never pretended to have all the answers and earlier this year we initiated a Request for Information/Ideas processes calling on the private sector to submit ideas to augment our water supplies.
We received over 100 submissions in response to the RFI from the market on proposed solutions that will enable the City to temporarily establish several small, intermediate and possibly even large plants to supply potable water.
We have commenced with the procurement and commissioning processes which will see non-surface water from various sources coming on line at different stages and the yields rising incrementally.
The City’s Water Resilience Task Team is working on the strategic intent to both augment the system with up to 500 million litres of non-surface water and to drive down consumption to 500 million litres a day.
In total there are about 24 planned initiatives across desalination, groundwater abstraction, and water reuse that are planned.
Beyond efforts to augment the system with these initiatives, the City is working closely with the National Government to ensure fairness in allocation of water from the supply system.
I am in contact with the Minister of Water and am confident she will provide support wherever needed.
We live in an increasingly resource-constrained world, where carbon emissions, energy, water or waste are all business factors to be considered. All of these factors, whether it be their abundance or their scarcity, affect the way we do business and the way we govern.
At this time Cape Town is confronted by the worst drought in the history of this city, with this year’s rainfall being devastatingly low.
The City is acutely aware of the extreme risk faced by our people and our economy if our dams run dry.
As I have said before, a well-run city will not run out of water.
And that is the process I am leading: to secure our immediate water needs and to ensure that the city is placed on a path that is better prepared to deal with ongoing water scarcity, the New Normal.
But securing our immediate water future can only be achieved if all sectors of society assume responsibility for their roles to conserve water or make use of alternative water.
This includes households, government, the commercial sector, industry and agriculture. We need to co-own the risk.
In line with Level 5 water restrictions, we are especially targeting the commercial property sector which needs to reduce consumption by at least 20% compared to a year ago. This is the only category of water users that has not reduced demand.
I cannot stress enough that we are in the most critical phase of this crisis and the risk we all face is enormous, unless we all do more to drastically reduce our water demand.
The situation is serious. As we conclude the rainy season, dam levels stand at 37,4%, of which only 27% is easily useable.
We now begin the long summer – a critical period during which we together must do everything possible to preserve the capacity of our dams.
The City has always been a very responsible player in the Western Cape Water Supply System – the dam system that serves our city, some surrounding municipalities and agricultural users.
Our draw down of water from the dams has been lower than our allocation as per the rules of the system.
The most critical path to preserving our dams is driving down consumption. As of Monday, consumption stood at 600 million litres a day, which is 100 million litres more than the City’s target.
If we remain at this level, the day of running out of water from our dams will arrive much sooner.
We can only ensure that we do not allow the City’s water resources to run dry if we all do much more and work together.
Our collective water usage has dropped from over 1 billion litres a day at the start of 2017 to 600 million litres today.
But not everyone is contributing. There are some users, particularly in the domestic household sector, using excessive amounts of water.
The figure has dropped significantly in recent weeks but still stands at about 30 000 households.
For this reason, in the last six weeks, we have installed over 5 000 water management devices or similar devices onto the properties of excessively high water users.
These devices restrict usage to 350 litres per household per day. As of last week, we were installing these at a rate of 2 000 a week. This will drag down consumption further towards our goal.
Two weeks ago the City began aggressive pressure reduction management under Phase 1 of our water shortages disaster response.
This is in effect water rationing. Reports I am receiving this week suggest consumption is dropping, and that the intervention is yielding results.
As water rationing is intensified, some areas will be affected for short periods of time. This will lead to intermittent, localised temporary water supply disruptions.
This process does not result in a complete shutdown of the water reticulation system, but it will severely limit available water supply in the system per day.
The City cannot provide definitive timetables of the disruptions as the water systems must be managed flexibly to avoid damage to critical infrastructure.
In terms of stepping up our response to water leaks, the City has reduced water losses to 14%, below the national average of 20%. We are now working towards lowering this to 10 – 5%.
Earlier this year, we invested in additional resources to reduce water lost through leaks by allocating R22 million to employ additional staff in the Water and Sanitation Department, with an additional 24 teams part of our front-line response teams to combat water leaks and water wastage.
We are also improving efficiencies in our operations and City facilities are being retrofitted with water-efficient fittings.
My call to businesses today is to also step up proactive maintenance of your infrastructure by checking for water leaks and having them repaired as soon as possible.
I again want to thank all households and businesses that have made great efforts to conserve water. I know it has been challenging, but the impacts we face by not changing our behaviour are far too severe and we can avoid that.
From now through the hot holiday season, it is essential that we all do everything possible to conserve water.
We are not leaving anything to chance. As much as we are driving initiatives to bring down consumption and bring online more water, we are at the same time building contingency plans for worst-case events. This is what a responsible government does.
Nevertheless, I am confident that together we can safely navigate this period. But let us not be complacent. There is strength in numbers and this will only work if we all do as much as we can to adapt to the New Normal.
We are entering the holiday season. Our city is one of the finest holiday destinations in the world and the tourism sector is an important part of our economy.
Let it be clear that we are open for business. Tourism water use is largely offset by a slowdown in industrial and commercial water use and by Capetonians leaving the city to holiday elsewhere.
Nevertheless, in the coming days we will be launching a massive awareness campaign for our visitors called ‘Save like a local’.
It will supplement the broader summer campaign to locals as we drive awareness around maintaining low consumption, even when the temperatures rise.
To our partners in business, the drought situation is indeed serious. This is not a drill. But there is a plan to avoid water shortages. That plan has roles for government, business, and households.
So to business I ask you to join us in taking a variety of actions.
· Continue to seek efficiencies in water use wherever possible to drive down demand
· Promote and seek feasible opportunities to use alternative water
· Engage with your staff and customers on ways to reduce water. There are plenty of downloadable resources from the City’s ThinkWater website to assist with engagement
· Construct your own contingency plans for worst-case scenarios
· Become a water ambassador and showcase your successes
Thank you for joining the efforts of Team Cape Town to navigate this drought. We are a creative and resilient city. Let’s join forces to do even more.
Thank you, baie dankie, enkosi.