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Day Zero may be avoided in Cape Town

Earlier today, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, announced at a press briefing that the predicted Day Zero scenario for the City of Cape Town may be avoided during the current year. The Day Zero scenario was used as a planning tool by the City of Cape Town as an indication as to when the City’s water supply was expected to fail because of the ongoing drought plaguing the City.

Day Zero was initially expected to arrive at 22 April but was shortly afterwards revised to 12 April. It was later pushed back to 16 April, then 11 May, 4 June, 9 July and has now been cancelled indefinitely. The City had prepared extensive contingency plans around the mobilisation of resources to supply citizens with 25 litres of potable water per person per day to be collected at certain designated locations throughout the City.

The City’s use of the Day Zero scenario had previously been questioned by various water-sector role players, including the agricultural sector. In many cases farmers have since 12 January 2018 had to make do with almost none of their allocated water because of Nationally-imposed and strictly-enforced water restrictions. This has lead of enormous losses and hardship for the agricultural community, including job losses for seasonal farm labourers.

While it clearly had the effect of focussing ordinary Capetonians’ attention on the severity of the prevailing drought, the use of the Day Zero scenario may also inadvertently have created its own unforeseen water management crisis. Panicked persons (who could afford to do so) began buying and stockpiling both raw and treated water in anticipation of Day Zero realising. This disruption of normal consumption patterns created enormous difficulties for City water planners as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Although the City previously acknowledged that its estimations of its water supply were revised because of agriculture’s reduced consumption, it has failed to acknowledge agriculture’s concerted efforts in this regard or the disastrous effects of the drought on the agricultural sector. According to Agri SA’s Head of Natural Resources, Janse Rabie, the use (and now withdrawal) of the Day Zero scenario creates the impression the City may have cried wolf too soon and that the agricultural sector now has to pay for that action.

“While we are happy that Day Zero now appears to have been averted, people should realise that the current drought is by no means over. It remains a National Disaster which, particularly for the agricultural sector in the Western Cape, becomes worse with each passing day. We implore all spheres of government to maintain their focus on the severity of this drought and to step up the critical drought relief measures for the agricultural sector" said Rabie

While the imminent threat of Day Zero appears to have been averted, the prevailing drought in the Province and the City continues. Both the National Water Restrictions of 12 January 2018 as well as the City’s Level 6b Water Restrictions remain in place and citizens are implored to adhere to the requirement of, amongst other things, limiting their personal water consumption to no more than 50 litres per person per day.

Mr Janse Rabie
Agri SA: Head of Natural Resources
C: 076 451 9601