12 March 2018

South Africa: From the Inside - Four Changes That Rewrote the Day Zero Narrative

Photo: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
(file photo).

What happened between Day Zero being an absolute certainty in 2018 to it being pushed back to 2019, despite the absence of rain?

On 18 January 2018, Mayor Patricia de Lille, announcing the imposition of level 6B water restrictions, warned that Day Zero - when Cape Town residents would start queueing for water rations - was now virtually unavoidable. The "likely" date, she said, was 21 April.

On 7 March - 48 days later - DA leader Mmusi Maimane announced that Cape Town was unlikely to reach Day Zero during 2018.

What happened between those two dates to occasion such a dramatic recovery, despite the absence of rain?

The answer is: Four things:

Water consumption dropped significantly, from over 600-million litres per day to around 520-million litres. This was driven by a combination of tight new restrictions; significant tariff increases; a deliberate drop in water pressure, and residents' compliance with water-saving measures.

Water supply to three agricultural irrigation boards was cut entirely.

The farmers of the Groenland Water Users Association donated 10-billion (10,000 million) litres of water from its Elandsfontein dam to the City.

Augmentation began to come on stream by the targeted dates.

None of these developments was predictable,...

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