Social media has been flooded with images of water bottles stacked around, waiting to be sent down to help the residents of Cape Town deal with the drought. Many relief organisations like the Gift of the Givers have started drives to collect water to send in a consignment down to the Cape. However, the department of water and sanitation has said that it believes it is ‘too early’ to send water to the Western Cape. The Daily Vox team rounds up.
The department issued a warning to residents that it is too early to begin sending water down to the Cape, as the Day Zero scenario could still be avoided. It said that in fact if people from Gauteng continue sending water, it could cause a strain on the water resources. The spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said that residents should be careful not to create their own water crisis.
According to EyeWitness News, Ratau said: “There’s a reversal of the strain into the integrated Vaal River system and it might end up with worse situation if we carry on with this practice.”
Last month, the City of Joburg said that while Joburg was not in any immediate danger, Level 1 restrictions would remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Residents have been urged to use water sparingly as the dam levels in the Vaal have dropped below 80%.
The department along with the Democratic Alliance in Cape Town remain confident that Day Zero will be defeated.
However, organisations like the Gift of the Givers have called on people from Gauteng and around the country to continue donating water for Cape Town regardless of the warning from the department. The organisation has set up drop-off zones around the country for people to donate water for Capetonians. There are 31 zones in Gauteng and 17 in KwaZulu-Natal. There are also zones in Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces.
The organisation’s Emily Thomas said: “Until we get sufficient rain, then only can we step back.”
She said the organisation would not be waiting for Day Zero to hit before stepping in.
Already, over 100,000 litres of water have been collected from people around the province, which will be sent to the Mother City next week. A woman from Durban has collected thousands of litres of water to be sent to animal sanctuaries in Cape Town.
However, is sending thousands of litres of water really the best way to help the people of Cape Town?
On Tuesday, Richard Holden, a water and sanitation expert, said in an interview with Radio 702’s Stephen Grootes: “The cost of sending bottles down to Cape Town and the amount of water they’re actually taking in comparison to the need, people would do better to take that money … and for example you could drill well points on the Cape Flats which is only one and half meters and use that water for any purpose that is non potable.”
Holden said sending the bottled water down to Cape Town with a truck or a train is a very expensive way to transport it.
“In terms of having impact, the best thing would be to contribute money. Gift of the Givers could establish well points in Khayelitsha for example. This would have a far bigger impact than sending water down.” said Holden.
The best thing for Cape Town, Holden said, is to recycle sewage water which is far cheaper option than building a pipeline. Recycling sewage is something has been implemented in other African countries. Namibia has been recycling sewage water for the past 50 years.
Lastly, though Holden said it is completely safe to keep bottled water for long amounts of time. And that looks increasingly like the option people in Cape Town and perhaps the rest of South Africa will have to take up.