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South Africans have been a little obsessed with the weather lately, and for good reason. We've been experiencing a drought for the past two years. But while Gauteng seems to be in the clear (for now) – the Vaal Dam is filled to capacity – following the abundance of rainfall over the past couple of weeks, the Western Cape – and the City of Cape Town in particular – remains thirsty.
In the Western Cape, dam levels are sitting at 31%, havingdropped by 1.6% in one week. With the rainy season far away and only 120 days of water left, the situation in Cape Town looks dire.Â Since October last year, there have been strict water restrictions where metros across the country. To date, Cape Town has not adhered to its target of using 700 million litres per day. The cityâ€™s current usage is 837 million litres per day.
It's important to look at the situation critically and ask if it could have been managed better to mitigate its effects because the worst thing about the impending water crisis is that the poor will suffer the most.
Naming and shaming campaign backfires
One of the actions taken to address the water crisis in Cape Town was a name and shame campaign. The DA-run City of Cape Town revealed the top 100 water guzzlers on Monday. In the top 10, is a number of wealthy areas like Constantia, Bishop's Court, and Tokai. These are likely people who have sprawling lawns and big, blue swimming pools to fill with the earth's most precious resource.
Upon further investigation, it appeared that some of the consumers on the list had serious leakages. The number one consumer of water in Crawford was billed for over 700 000 litres in a month. That amount of water is enough to fill 10 average-sized swimming pools. It was revealed that two elderly people lived in this residence which had neither a garden nor a pool. Instead, a water pipe had burst last month and this reflected on the bill.
So the top water user in Cape Town has an underground leak? And our water department didn’t pick that up? @CityofCT is incompetent
But second on the list was a location in Manenberg – one of Cape Town's poorer communities. Manenberg has no sprawling lawns or pools either. What Manenberg does have is leaking pipes. The resident who lived at the address, Martha Thuysma, 64, told The Daily Voice that her water meter is so faulty she turns her water off to stop her house from flooding.
Sasol's manager of sustainable water, Andries Meyer, said local municipalities are losing almost half of their water in leakages because their infrastructure is old and badly maintained. This means that water losses are as high as 30% to 60%.
In his radio show on Thursday, Heart FM radio presenter Aden Thomas criticised the name-and-shame campaign as œdisingenuous. He said the list did not provide water consumers with any context – what the normal level of consumption is or even action taken by authorities to correct the situation. Thomas said he was disappointed with the City's response because he feels that they should have gone above and beyond. He questioned whether it had done everything, whether it had prioritised the accounts of those who had been using exorbitant amounts of water.
Why so slow to fix the problems?
There should be greater urgency in dealing with the matter. Even if it was just one leak, considering that it is impossible to manufacture water, it needs to be prioritised and dealt with. Apart from the situation falling on the shoulders of Mother Nature, there is a service delivery issue here. Worse is that the poor will suffer – and that is just symptomatic of ongoing DA policy.
Capetonians are recycling their bathwater and using it to top up their toilet systems, water their pot plants or their gardens. Has the City taken into account how abnormal the situation is and done everything to address it?
According to a report by EWN, municipal officers are engaging with Cape Town's top water users. According to the City of Cape Town, none of the residents had reported any water leakages. But that excuse simply is not good enough. When data shows that a single residence is using enough water to fill up to ten swimming pools, the City needs to take the issue more seriously. Regional head at the Water and Sanitation Department, Rashid Khan, was also baffled by the City's approach. It cost a lot of money to reduce wastage, but it doesn't take away from the manager’s going to water users to find out what's going on, he said.
What's worse is that the DA is always bragging about how well-run their metros are. In their vision, they say, Where we govern, we have delivered the country's best performance scores in education, health, service delivery and clean governance.
Pull yourself together, City of Cape Town
This speaks to how the DA runs the Cape Town metro in general. The party's past actions would suggest that it prioritises the needs of the rich over the needs of the poor. We see that with the gentrification of spaces like Woodstock, Observatory, Salt River, and Zonnebloem, where poor folk are evicted to create larney spaces for the rich to sip on superfood smoothies and buy artisan bread. It's similar with the Cape Town deployment of police; there is a greater police presence in Camps Bay than in Nyanga and Khayelitsha.
It is imperative that the City of Cape Town does more to address the water crisis. Who is going to suffer when the water runs out? While the rich will be rushing to the nearest Woolworths to get a five-litre bottle of water, it is the poor that will remain landless – and now waterless.
For many years now, I have thought that Camps Bay beachfront area is in a steady state of slow decline, notwithstanding some of the initiatives of continuous improvement a paradox, indeed.
I commute twice daily through Camps Bay, stopping for coffees in the morning, and eating at a Camps Bay restaurant two or three times a week on the way home.
The sidewalk vendors, selling curios and ice creams are a definite plus for the vibe, especially as far as tourists are concerned. However, the vendors cars – six on average measured on four consecutive days – are parked alongside the vendors’ display area, blocking off a potential parking bay for 12 plus hours every day.
The cars are no doubt used to transport the wares to/from the sidewalk area, but why not then enforce the parking of cars behind the sports fields, and they can then return to load the stock later?
On another tack, I have a suggestion for traffic flow improvement, and for a minor change to MyCiTi bus stop locations.
In the past 10 years or so, I have noticed an exponential hindrance in traffic flow; originally in the “high peak” summer months, but now it seems way more year-around.
The MyCiTi buses do an excellent job, yet there are incremental improvements they could make to minimise traffic hindrance.
I am an unabashed fan of the MyCiTi bus service; I have blogged “live” from a bus for a group of cyclists and motorbikes, following the launch of MyCiTi, have commuted to/from work with it on 30 or 40 occasions, have transported a bicycle – by necessity – on the bus outside of peak hours (brilliant), and think very highly of the service indeed. Well done Cape Town – a real asset to the City of Cape Town.
There are, however, some minor improvements which could, in my opinion, make a major difference to the smooth running of the service. MyCiTi opted for the “in-traffic” stop method, whereby the bus does not pull off the road, but stops in the traffic flow, loads/unloads passengers, and then continues on its way. This method prevents the buses having to re-enter traffic flow, and thus be held hostage by impatient car drivers not letting the bus back in.
The problem it causes is that another MyCiTi bus is being forced over the double white line in order to pass another bus.
The sheer number of buses waiting to collect passengers (enforced waiting for scheduling purposes) puts a lot of load of the traffic infrastructure, and significantly adds to congestion. Buses with a 5 to 10 minute wait at a stop – say Camps Bay – will idle for those 5 to 10 minutes, doors open; even in cooler, winter conditions. Could the bus engine not be switched off to mitigate unnecessary pollution? This is my experience while onboard the bus, not as an observer.
Again, in Camps Bay, they have situated a bus stop (Glen Beach) on a narrow, curving part of Victoria Road, when just 10 metres earlier, sufficient space exists for the bus stop – this would enable cars to still pass the bus when it “pulls in”, but is way safer than the existing situation of a bus stop on curved road after a 1km straight.
The bus stop at Bakoven outbound from Cape Town, is again, situated on a fairly dangerous bend and, paradoxically, there is a bus stop/turning area immediately behind this bus stop; I would seriously recommend MyCiTi to re-examine using the same bus top, but facing east instead of west, in other words, using an existing, safe, out-of-the- traffic bus stop, to enable the free flow of traffic. Motorists will allow the MyCiTi bus back into the flow of traffic – that is how much goodwill exists for this service.
I’m keen to hear MyCiTi’s management views on this; hopefully a thorough analysis, rather than “we thought of that, but it won’t work ”
Like Venice Beach and others, Camps Bay is becoming such a must-see destination, but it’s like the road along the beach – Victoria Drive – cannot cope.
I do think it would be worth doing a feasibility study of having an underpass (tunnel), allowing the following:
Emergency vehicles, pedestrians, would all have unfettered access across a paved-over surface where the existing road is situated.
One-way traffic would pass underneath this road – a massive undertaking, for sure, but nothing like on the scale of say Boston, Massachusetts.
It could be beneficial to have the opposing traffic routed behind Main Road, on existing infrastructure.
Just envision the entire existing road along the beach-front being pedestrianised, with people strolling about, and the restaurants/ hotels no longer separated from the beachfront by a never-ending stream of traffic.
Delivery vehicles would still have access. All other non-emergency vehicles would go underground. And Camps Bay would lose its worsening traffic congestion.