South African companies do their bit to cut water use

Under level 6B water restrictions, the City of Cape Town limits residents to using 50 litres of water per person per day. Meanwhile, businesses are finding innovative ways to cut water consumption.

south african companies cut water use
There are many ways to save water. One restaurant in Stellenbosch, for example, uses the water in which spinach is cooked, to wash dishes. (Image: Brand South Africa)

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The City of Cape Town will implement level 6B water restrictions from 1 February 2018. This means that each person in the city is limited to 50 litres of water per day for at least the next 150 days.

Dam levels in the region are extremely low, and it was announced on 23 January that Day Zero had been pushed forward to 12 April 2018. Day Zero is when the taps run dry; from that day, residents will be forced to stand in line at designated water points to collect an allocated 25 litres of water per person per day.

As part of efforts to relieve pressure on rapidly dwindling water resources in the region, the national Department of Water and Sanitation had partnered with the City on a joint blitz on unlawful water activities in Mfuleni, according to the South African Government News Agency.

The focus of the operation was to address all current water use contraventions and compliance with the water restrictions, particularly targeting informal carwashes, said the department.

On 25 January 2018, for example, several fines were issued, mostly for using municipal drinking water at informal carwashes without special exemption. On the previous day, the department conducted compliance monitoring on farms in the Malmesbury and Tulbagh areas.

Meanwhile, businesses across Cape Town are implementing strategies to cut their water use.

Organisers of the Sun Met, known as Africa’s richest race day, brought in 60,000 litres of water from outside Cape Town for guests and racegoers. The annual race was held on Saturday, 27 January this year, at Kenilworth Racecourse.

Taps at the racecourse were not used on the day, as a commitment to support the province’s drive to conserve the scarce resource, the organisers said.

Wine farms saving water

There had been a rapid increase in the use of drip irrigation from about 30% of farms in 1996 to 59% in 2012 in the wine industry, according to Kevin Cilliers, KwaZulu-Natal regional manager of the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA).

Cilliers said wine estates such as Boschendal had explored more efficient methods of irrigation to use only what was needed.

Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either from above the soil surface or buried below the surface.

There was a heightened sense of awareness of water consumption and management in the wine sector, said Cilliers. “Many wine producers such as Spier, Boschendal, Lourensford and Elgin Orchards have embarked on interventions to manage and eradicate alien vegetation species around their rivers, so as to reduce losses and to remediate the waterways.”

In another example, significant progress had been made at Spier with installation of a centralised waste water treatment facility comprising reed beds. “The company has achieved 100% recycling of effluent generated for watering of gardens and grounds.”

Businesses playing their part

It had closed all showers in its domestic and international lounges at the airport, the Slow Lounge at Cape Town International Airport told Tourism Update. It also encouraged water saving in toilets and at basins, and had posted notices in the lounge bathrooms.

Slow Lounge could not confirm when its showers would reopen.

Agents and tour operators have been advised by Cape Town Tourism to inform clients of the water restrictions in the city and to ask them to be mindful when consuming water anywhere in the airport or the city.

On Friday, 15 December, Siemens Southern and Eastern Africa encouraged people travelling from Gauteng to participate in a social experiment and exchange five kilograms of their on-flight baggage allowance for five litres of water.

The experiment, called Siemens Airdrop, uses a voucher system: passengers with enough unused (5kg or more) luggage receive a voucher in Johannesburg and on arrival in Cape Town receive a five-litre bottle of water in exchange. Operating on a first come, first serve basis, there are 1,000 vouchers available.

The AirDrop collection stand is in the arrivals area, opposite Woolworths. Uncollected water is donated to Gift of the Givers.

Meanwhile, Business Live has reported that pasta and boiled vegetables are disappearing from menus at several restaurants in Cape Town.

Pane E Vino Food and Wine Bar reused most of its water, said Akihirah Erasmus, head of the kitchen at the Stellenbosch eatery. “The water we use to cook our spinach is reused to wash our dishes; we use the water we wash our cutlery with for our garden.” Staff are also encouraged to bring their own drinking water.

The Vineyard Hotel in Newlands has removed pasta from menus at its restaurants and patrons can no longer order boiled vegetables. Different cooking techniques had been implemented to save water, said executive chief Carl Van Rooyen. “We don’t boil anymore, we steam.” Deep frying was another method used.

Managing the drought

The national Department of Water and Sanitation, together with the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape department of local government, environment and development planning, had held several meetings in an effort to manage and mitigate the effects of the drought on water availability for the province, said Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

The Restrictions Management Committee and the Joint Operations Centre had been set up to oversee drought management functions and interventions with the joint participation of local, provincial and national government.

Through these efforts a Water Indaba, bringing together the government, the private and agricultural sectors, as well as academics and water experts, was convened to investigate solutions and action necessary to avert a water black-out.

“As a department we have successfully intervened and saved several provinces that were devastated by the drought over the last three years and will continue to do so in the Western Cape as well,” Mokonyane said.

Over the next few days, she would hold several follow-up meetings with the various stakeholders to assess progress of the implementation of current interventions as well as new interventions necessary to avert #DayZero.

For more information and water restriction guidelines, visit the City of Cape Town’s website.

Source: South African Government News Agency, City of Cape Town, Tourism Update, Business Live and Siemens

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