Western Cape faces worst water shortage in 113 years

The province is doing all it can to avert “Day Zero” – the day on which the taps run completely dry. Image by: Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille yesterday declared the province a disaster area as it battled its worst water shortage in 113 years.

The provincial government might need as much as R3-billion to fund projects aimed at mitigating water shortages and other effects of the drought, Zille’s spokesman, Michael Mpofu, told TimesLive.

He said the money would be “re-prioritised” from the budgets of provincial government departments.

Mpofu said the province was doing all it could to avert “Day Zero” – the day on which the taps run completely dry.

Zille’s office said yesterday that the province would maintain the disaster status for three months.

“The disaster declaration will accelerate the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre’s Avoiding Day Zero project, the province’s strategy to ensure that the taps do not run dry,” said Zille.

The project will focus on water-demand management, winter water conservation and groundwater exploitation.

Zille said the drought is the worst since 1904.

Mpofu said the figure of R3-billion might change as events unfolded.

“Funding will be re-prioritised provincially and, should further assistance be needed, the province will approach the National Treasury and the national Department of Water and Sanitation.”

Western Cape declared a disaster area amid worst drought in more than a century

The province’s immediate interventions will include “drilling boreholes at hospitals, starting in the metro, to be followed by schools in high-risk water-scarce areas”.

The province will fast-track the assessment of the environmental impact of using a mobile desalination plant “using existing water inlet flows used for the reactors at the Koeberg [nuclear power station] site”, and drilling into the Table Mountain aquifer.

“In the past year, at least R27- million has been re-prioritised for interventions in areas declared local disasters.

“In the past year, at least R27- million has been re-prioritised for interventions in areas declared local disasters.

“In January 2016, parts of the west coast and central Karoo were declared agricultural drought disaster areas,” said Mpofu.

Water and sanitation MEC Nomvula Mokonyane said this did not mean that there was new money available but it “allows for a re-prioritisation within the current provincial budget and those of municipalities to respond to the drought and support interventions”.

APHIWE DEKLERK and ARON HYMAN

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