Water in Rands and sense

Ah summer is here… Bring on the hot, sunny days, more ‘bums in beds’, and a shared spirit of festiveness! What summer also brings, however, is the Mother City’s dry season and, on the back of a particularly low rainfall year, this is going to pose some grave challenges with respect to water consumption in the Mother City.

low dam level, western cape
Theewaterskloof Dam showing very low levels in March, image (c) ewn.co.za

Although it’s still the beginning of our summer season, our water reserves are looking drier than ever. Cape Town – and the entire Western Cape – faces serious drought conditions in the coming months, similar to the patterns we have seen across the country over the past few years.

In fact, at the end of the first week of November, the City of Cape Town reported that the capacity of the major dams supplying Cape Town (see “Did you know” box below) to be at only 59.2% compared to 69.5% at the same time last year… This is what that dam capacity looks compared to the past few years:

Dam levels, Cape Town
Weekly dam levels for the Cape Town as at 7 November is the lowest its been in years

Level 3 water restrictions and your business

cape town, sources of waterWater scarcity is certainly an undeniable reality and with the season’s water demands for business and recreation on the rise, there is a call for Capetonians and its visitors to take serious precautions and make concerted efforts to save water. In an effort to encourage greater water conservation of this precious resource, the City introduced Level 3 water restrictions from 1 November 2016.

What does this mean for your business? Here is a snapshot of some of the water saving implications that you must be aware of:

  • All taps, showerheads and other plumbing fittings must be waterwise.
  • If you need to water vegetable gardens, flowerbeds, lawns, etc. you may only use a watering can or bucket. No hosepipes or automatic sprinkler systems!
  • If you have a water feature on your property, you may only use recycled water or another non-potable source.
  • If you have an automatic top-up system for your swimming pool, it’s time to turn it off… You should invest in a pool cover for pool in order to minimize water loss through evaporation.

For an explanation of these and other restrictions, as well as grey water / borehole signage resources, refer to the City of Cape Town’s 2016 commercial water restrictions information.

The costs of Level 3 water tariffs

If the image of dry banks along the dams isn’t incentive enough, a further incentive to save water may be the increased water tariffs that accompany the Level 3 restrictions. These take effect from 1 December and are significant: commercial users will see an increase of 14% on their usage, but it is those tourism businesses that are paying domestic tariffs and are high consumers of water that will be paying even more.

Cape Town level three water tariffs
Tourism business that pay for water on domestic tariffs can expect steep increases in the cost of water if they’re high water consumers

Quick and easy ways to save water in your business

If you weren’t convinced before, we’re hoping that you will now see the importance for everyone to put their full effort into this area of operating responsibly. It is truly going to be a team effort.

Here are some of Cape Town Tourism’s top tips to help you save water:

  • Check for leaks and drips regularly and repair them ASAP
  • Launder guest linen and towels every three days only
  • Encourage staff to use water efficient settings on dishwashers and washing machines
  • Only do laundry when you have a full load
  • Measure and display your water consumption for staff and guests
  • Start a water reduction target and reward programme
  • Have a longer term water conservation plan

Investing in water conservation

The tips above are the quick and easy measures you can take in your business to save water. You may find that with the rising costs of water, it may be worth your while to invest in water saving devices like water-efficient appliances, rainwater harvesting tanks (for winter of course) and grey water systems.  

You’ll find more information on this and additional resources for how you can save water in your business here:

Getting your guests involved in water conservation

In the hospitality industry, there’s only so much you can do to save water when it’s your guests who are responsible for much of your business’s water consumption. Many of Cape Town’s tourists come from countries where water is relatively inexpensive and plentiful. Because of this, there is little pressure to save water at home so they’re often not even aware of the need to do so when they are here. Thus far you may have shied away from telling your guests about the need to save water because you were worried about compromising on their satisfaction, but it’s now more important than ever to get guests involved in your water saving efforts.

You can’t control your guests’ behaviour but you certainly can influence it. We encourage you to share information with your guests and visitors about the water crisis in the country and to appeal to them to respect the need to use water sparingly.

Many accommodation establishments show new guests around on arrival to familiarize them with the facilities and layout of the property; this provides an excellent opportunity to mention how scarce water is and the need to use it sparingly. You can then reinforce the message with signage in the places where people use water, e.g. kitchens and bathrooms.

Remember that visitors from abroad probably don’t know what acceptable water usage is for our context, so you want to steer them towards:

  • Taking a shower instead of taking a bath. (Now’s the time to yank out bathtubs – they’ll make great planters for waterwise indigenous plants!)
  • Taking a shower no longer than five minutes. Visitors may be accustomed to taking half an hour showers, so they’ll think a twenty-minute shower is short.
  • Not letting water run when they’re washing or brushing their teeth.

You can find some ideas in the How-to Guide mentioned above, or borrow some info from the City’s fact sheet: Smart Office Toolkit  – Water Cheat Sheet.

Save waterReporting water wastage

Lastly, if you notice leaks in the municipal supply or someone not doing their bit to conserve this precious natural resource please let the City know so that they can follow up.