Up until recently Day Zero was a only a possibility, a worst case scenario that many people still can’t get their heads around. But all that changed last week when both the City of Cape Town and the WWF published documents stating that Day Zero is now likely. The WWF was the first to deliver their gloomy prediction with their new Wednesday Water File, a weekly update on the water crisis. But the City of Cape Town followed the very next day with an email and article that warned of empty taps by late April (now brought forward to early April) if water usage is not drastically reduced.
With Day Zero now almost a certainty, we now bring you this: a page packed with the most relevant facts and advice about day Zero as well as links to the most authoritative pages on the water crisis.
The official page for the water crisis is the Cape Town Day Zero dashboard. This simple tool gives users a quick overview of the situation: collective dam levels, the progression of water projects, and the percentage of Capetonians who are adhering to water restrictions. However, if you want more detailed information on any of these topics, the pages referenced below can give you what you are looking for.
To see how our dams are doing, check the official dam levels page. As the last 10% of a dam’s water is difficult to use, the usable water in the dam is roughly 10% less than the total water stored. Total dam storage is currently at 27%, so that means 17% usable water.
% of total storage 26%
% of usable water 16%
Total water stored (ML) 23,111
Usable water stored (ML) 14,222
The Western Cape Water Supply System delivers water to Cape Town, the Overberg, Boland, West Coast and Swartland areas. But not all of these areas are dependent solely on the system fed by the six big dams. If certain water augmentation projects are completed in time, Atlantis and Saldanha could be spared the effects of Day Zero. Some Parts of Stellenbosch also have alternative water sources and will be safe. But most Boland residents can expect to have their taps turned off when the clock runs down.
We are currently at Level 6 water restrictions, but that’s going to change when on 1 February restrictions are ratched up to Level 6B. This will mean a daily personal water allowance of 50 litres. This comes on top of all previous water restrictions along with a limit on the use of groundwater (acquired through boreholes and wellpoints) for irrigation. The official water restrictions page still outlines Level 6 restrictions, but we’ve listed Level 6B restrictions here:
Households that don’t limit their water usage to 6000 litres a month can expect to be charged with punitive tariffs. The City claims to have made provisions so that households larger than four people will not be unfairly penalised. Residents in such households should contact the City of Cape Town on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in seeing how your neighbors are doing (there’s nothing like a little social pressure to inspire more stringent water usage), check out Cape Town’s Water Map. Here you can see who’s been doing their bit to help ward off Day Zero. Properties that have used less than 6000 litres a month are marked with a dark green dot, while light green dots represent properties that have used under 10,500 litres. There are other elements on the key, but you can visit it yourself if you are looking for evidence that Mr & Mrs So-and-so have not been completely dedicated to the cause.
In last weeks email, Patricia de Lille wrote that the city’s seven augmentation projects – set to produce around 200 million litres per day – were never going to stop Day Zero, but would only make Cape Town more water resilient. That said, these facilities will be needed to supplement the water delivered to places that need it most, like hospitals.
Cape Town Harbour desalination plant 50%
V&A desalination plant 33%
Standfontein desalination plant 52%
Monwabisi desalination plant 58%
Cape Flats groundwater project 53%
Atlantis groundwater project 60%
Zandvliet recycled water project 41%
It’s reassuring then that the city's director for water and sanitation services, Peter Flower, has told the Cape Times that "we are still optimistic that the first phase of our additional water supply programme –– that is, the projects outlined on the dashboard –– will start producing water from February 2018, and will be operating at full capacity by July." The progress of the individual projects is shown on the Water Dashboard, but it would also be nice to see some expected delivery dates.
Day Zero will come when dam levels reach 13.5%. Right now that is calculated to be just over 10 weeks away on 12 April. This calculation is based how much water is left in the 6 dams, how much water is evaporating out of them, and how much water is being used by residents. This date can be moved closer if we don’t hit our water usage targets, and it can be delayed if we pull together to drastically reduce the amount of water used.
In short, the taps in most areas will be turned off, and the city will move into full-scale Emergency Stage 3. This means that water to households and businesses will be cut off. Only the CBD, informal settlements, hospitals and clinics, and the 200 water collection points will still receive water.
The City of Cape Town has stated that it is making exemptions to keep trade and tourism going.
Those who can afford to will buy bottled water in stores – while stocks last. When this runs out, they will have to join the millions of others queuing at collection points for their allocated 25 litres of water. Those who started stockpiling water well in advance might be able to put this off longer, and those lucky enough to have water tanks, boreholes, and well points might be able to go about their lives without changing much – but they will be in the minority.
It’s difficult to say exactly how this will affect Cape Town business, but it can be expected that many people will be late for work (they’ll have to spend hours queuing for water every day) and absenteeism will be rife. Some businesses will shut down, and in others, people will be encouraged to work from home. Families with school-going children will be particularly affected if their children’s schools close as some parents will feel the need to stay at home to look after their children.
It’s difficult to say how long we will go without running water once the taps are turned off. The dams will take months to recover, and if we have another dry winter, it could be August before we see an increase in dam levels. Prepare to live without running water for at least three months and possibly up to six. It all depends on how much rain falls in the catchment areas.
The most obvious and important thing to do now is reduce your water usage to help delay Day Zero. But, it’s also important to ensure that you are properly prepared for Day Zero when it arrives. The following measures will help you get through times of extreme water scarcity.
Everyone should have some emergency reserves of drinking water at home. 5 litre bottles sell for about R13 to R15 at Game and Makro, and the Aquelle branded 5 litre bottles come in boxes of four, which make them easy to stack. Go during the week to avoid the worst queues, and know that there will be a limit how much you can buy (4 x 5L bottles at Pick n Pay and up to 16 x 5L bottles at Makro. Then, when you get home, put them in a cool dry place. Do NOT stockpile water from municipal water sources.
The city is planning 180 water collection points across the city. The locations of these sites will be included here when that information but becomes public, but for now it’s enough to know that you should learn in advance where your closest water collection point is. When these sites go online, residents will be able to collect 25 litres a day. These sites will initially be open for 12 hours a day, but times could change if the situation deteriorated. If you find yourself relying solely on this water, you will have to use it for everything: drinking, washing, cooking and personal hygiene.
If you are physically unable to carry heavy bottles of water, you will need the help of friends or family. If you don’t already know your neighbors, now is a good time to get to know them. Some might be able to help you to stockpile water before it runs out. On the other hand, if you are able-bodied and know that you have elderly neighbors, reach out. Ensure that they are aware of the crisis and that they have some water stockpiled.
Many businesses will not be able to stay open – either because they rely on large volumes of water for their core functions or because they’re not able to offer their employees and customers working ablution facilities. Talk to your boss and your colleagues now so that you know what the plan is when Day Zero arrives. In some lines of work, it’s possible to work remotely. If your job falls into this category it’s time to embrace cloud computing if you haven’t already.
Without water on tap, you are going to have to manage your personal hygiene using other means. Wet wipes and hand sanitiser can help you maintain a respectable level of cleanliness without using water. And while you’re stocking up on Day Zero essentials, you might also want to get water purification tablets for treating water of a quality that is less than ideal.
You can make Day Zero conditions easier by getting used to living with less water now. Remember this: no water down the drain unless it's down the toilet. Many Capetonians have been showering with a bucket for some time already. But you can improve on this strategy by upgrading to a plastic tub big enough to stand in. This way you wouldn't lose a drop, and you'd be able to see exactly how much water you're using.
For more advice on how to survive the water crisis, sign up for our free monthly newsletter, the Money Mailer. In addition to the usual tips on saving, budgeting and borrowing, we will include a dedicated Day Zero section for our Capetonian readers.