STATEMENT BY THE CITY’S MAYORAL COMMITTEE MEMBER FOR WATER AND WASTE, COUNCILLOR XANTHEA LIMBERG
The City’s Water Strategy was approved by Council. The purpose of this strategy is to ensure that Cape Town becomes more resilient to future droughts.
In 2017, dam levels turned at approximately 19% prior to winter rainfall, and in 2018, they turned at 20%. It was thus necessary to plan for the worst. The unprecedented drought tested the resilience of our city.
The events of the past 24 months made for a steep learning curve, in which all Capetonians found themselves uncomfortably close to the reality of what climate change looks and feels like. While many cities across the globe have found themselves perilously close to running out of water, or indeed having run completely out of water, Cape Town collectively picked up the mantle and put up a champion fight against a savagely unrelenting drought. The battle was fierce and captured the world’s imagination. Thus, quite battered and sporting more than a few bruises, Cape Town became the somewhat reluctant superstar of international water saving efforts.
The International Water Association named Cape Town the world record holder for water saving efforts, for having been the first city in the world to reduce its water consumption by 55% in three years, without ever resorting to intermittent supply.
The Carbon Disclosure Project named Cape Town as one of its Top Five cities in the world, out of a total of 533 that made submissions, for leading environmental action, for adapting to climate risks and management of water resources. These accolades are among various others as well as countless requests for engagement on the subject of water management by cities who are similarly confronted with uncharacteristic drought, as well as those who wish to prepare for this eventuality which is today far from impossible.
The Water Strategy builds on the lessons learnt over the past few years and is the product of extensive work that was conducted by the City in consultation with a range of local and international experts in the field of water. It has been created to buffer Cape Town from the harsh effects of drought in the future.
The Strategy articulates the City’s plan to ensure greater water security over the next 10 years as we move towards building a water-sensitive city.
The Water Strategy takes into account the complex relationships between water, people, the economy and the environment and sets out five commitments which support its realisation.
It is quite momentous that this forward-looking strategy has been approved by Council in the same month in which Day Zero had at one point been expected to occur. An incredible amount of work has been done over the course of this period and I encourage all Capetonians who have not yet read through the strategy to do so and to become familiar with the five commitments contained therein. I would like to thank the team that produced the strategy, as well as those who took the time to provide considered input during the public comment period.
Based on a scenario analysis, the City commits to increasing available capacity by more than 300 million litres per day over the next ten years. The strategy outlines a programme for achieving this, which includes the removal of alien vegetation from catchment areas, the incremental introduction of desalination, the use of groundwater and water re-use.
Cape Town will continue to rely on rain-fed dams for most of its water as this remains a much cheaper option than alternative supply sources. In future, a proportion of Cape Town’s water demand will be met from alternative sources including groundwater, water re-use and desalination.
The City’s commitment is to transform Cape Town over time into a more resilient and water-sensitive city. This is to safeguard and to foster the health and prosperity of all Cape Town residents. We will continue to learn and make every effort to reduce the likelihood of very severe water restrictions being implemented again and to ensure that supply and demand are reconciled.