City addresses questions about water issues

With Day Zero now earmarked for Monday April 16, Capetonians are in the grip of water worries and hygiene concerns.

Richard Bosman, the City of Cape Town’s executive director for safety and security, has answered a few questions.

We asked if ablution facilities at major tourist sites will be accessible to the public, and where grey water for flushing will be sourced from, for these points?

“With regard to publicablutions,coastal ablutions included, the department is currently considering which, if any, public ablutions will be kept open and isalsoinvestigating how these ablutions will function if they are kept open,” he said.

He pointed out that Cape Point does not fall under the control of the City, but under SANParks.

He said that businesses and organisations are required to reduce their water use by 45% compared with the corresponding period in 2015 (pre-drought). Agricultural users are required to reduce consumption by 60% .

In response to concerns about cleanliness for babies whose mothers cannot afford disposable nappies, he said: “Babies also have an allocation of 25 litres a day. Mothers would have to remove the solids from the nappy, place the soiled nappies to soak in an appropriate disinfectant for a while before washing and rinsing as usual.”

Mr Bosman side-stepped the question about child-care businesses and frail care centres with a standard response. We asked: “Are child-care businesses and frail care centres to be allowed more water for hygiene purposes, considering that in both instances there is an inability to control bladder and sometimes bowel function?”

He responded with: “Each resident will be entitled to 25 litres of water a day.”

We asked: What is the City’s advice on the safe disposal of solid waste from humans when Day Zero happens and nobody can flush?

Mr Bosman re- sponded: “The City is providing residents with guidelines on managing sanitation within households to ensure that the impact on the sewerage system is minimised. Additional action will be taken by the City to manage any sewerage build-up and alternative water will be used to flush the system at strategic points.

“Whereresidents have access to grey water, rain water and boreholes, this water should be prioritised for flushing to help keep the sewage system functioning.”

Mr Bosman added: “Where non-drinking water is kept for flushing, this should not be stored for longer than three days. Mark the containers clearly ‘for flushing only’. Alternative resources include borehole water, spring water and water extracted from rivers/wetlands – best to use gloves when collecting non-drinking water and any household disinfectant can be used. If in doubt contact your nearest environmental health office.

* Use less single-ply toilet paper as this requires less water to flush

* Wet wipes and sanitary pads are not to be flushed down toilets as this causes blockages – wrap and place in a dustbin.

* Don’t flush in a rush, adding the slogan “if it’s yellow, let it mellow”

We also asked what the City’s contingency plan is to prevent communicable diseases during this time.

He said that the City of Cape Town experiences a surge in diarrhoea during summer, as the warmer weather promotes the spread of germs. This is referred to as the Surge Season.

“With the current drought crisis, City Health is drastically increasing efforts to ensure that residents are aware of how to maintain the necessary health and hygiene practices despite water restrictions,” he said.

Jp Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, said: “The water

crisis that Cape Town is facing brings an added challenge to this year’s City Health Surge Season campaign. The peak of incidents of diarrhoea occur between February and April, and shortly after that there is a surge in pneumonia. The City is acutely aware of the potential health implications that a lack of water can have on health and hygiene practices. The campaign that launched today is aimed at creating awareness of which critical hygiene practices need to be observed despite the drought.”

Mr Smith joined health officials to kick off the campaign which includes city-wide back-to-back educational events at health facilities, food vendors, schools, early childhood development centres and in the community at large.

“The prevention of water- and food-borne diseases requires strict levels of hygiene to avoid cross-contamination. When diarrhoea develops, residents must be aware of the danger signs and they need to know what to do in that case. Now more than before, we need to be sticklers about hand washing, washing fruit and vegetables and cleaning food preparation surfaces. Food-borne diseases that occur due to cross contamination do not have to become more prevalent if the proper levels of hygiene are maintained,” said Mr Smith.

During the campaign, environmental health practitioners will communicate the five keys to food safety (keep clean; separate raw and cooked; cook thoroughly; keep food at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw materials) and give tips on how the use of squeeze bottles can help achieve that without wasting water.

At the same time, nurses will ensure that children under five years are up to date with their immunisations, are dewormed and receive vitamin A supplements, while those who present with dehydration will receive priority treatment at the clinics to prevent disease progression.

In addition, the City is part of an established outbreak response team together with provincial government.

All notifiable cases of disease are investigated thoroughly to determine the source, and to ensure that appropriate containment measures are enacted where necessary.

Health officers actively collect data and monitor reported cases during the diarrhoeal season to pick up early trends and ensure a rapid response.

Last year, the City’s Organisational Development and Transformation Plan (ODTP) was adopted by council to improve how the administration works.

‘We have seen how various departments and directorates can co-operate to improve the health and well-being of residents. These are trying times but by working together, we can get through it,” said Mr Smith.

The City lists its preventative measures as:

* Increased health and hygiene programmes

* City clinics have regular health talks about the prevention of water- and food-borne diseases and diarrhoea danger signs.

* Distribution of pamphlets

* Posters at water collection sites

* The public is encouraged to continue with their routine visitations to health clinics and ensure all immunisations of all family members are up to date.

* The City will continue to promote childhood vaccinations at all its healthcare facilities

* When persons display symptoms of dehydration they should drink a sugar/salt solution (half a teaspoon of salt, 8 teaspoons of sugar in one litre of water) and if the symptoms persist then proceed to the nearest clinic for treatment.

Healthcare facilities ensure that individuals who are sick and dehydrated (especially children) are fast-tracked to prevent disease progression.

We also asked about water for horses, considering how many horses in the far south are part of the tourist industry lure.

Mr Bosman only said that guidelines for the management of urban livestock with regards to the drought will be issued in “due course”. “Urban livestock farmers are encouraged to save as much water as they can in line with the water restrictions that are currently in place,” he said.