Harvesting rain

Diane Salters, Simon’s Town

Something I have not heard discussed much during this water crisis is the positive and powerful role the City of Cape Town could play through planning requirements.

It seems obvious that any new build should require some form of water harvesting, whether in underground tanks for offices and apartments or plastic tanks for private residences.

In Bangalore, no residency permit is given on any new build unless such harvesting is in place. I am sure this is true in many other water scarce parts of the world.

If such a requirement for rain harvesting is to apply to all new build (as I think it should), then it must apply to any new council building too.

At a recent community meeting we were given the good news that the building of RDP houses is going ahead for the residents of Red Hill informal settlement and for returning families who were forcibly removed from the Luyola township in Simons Town in 1967/8 as part of the apartheid government’s “group areas” policy.

This is indeed a welcome development but when I raised the issue of water tanks being provided for these RDP homes I was told by Simon Liell-Cock and Felicity Purchase that the council has no money. I do not think this is an adequate answer.

The provision of water tanks would make a big difference to the impact of these houses on the local area, add immense value to the lives of those who will occupy them and also reduce the space available for building back yard shacks… something which must be of concern.

Even if the city council is struggling to find money and needing to raise a levy to render our water future more secure, there must be ways of raising sponsorship, or funds from some development agency for the purpose of providing water tanks for these homes. Possibly even interest free loans that residents could pay back? Where there is a will there’s a way.

As part of our personal contribution to the alleviation of the drought, my husband and I asked our domestic worker ahead of time whether she would rather have her annual bonus or a water tank. She unhesitatingly asked for the water tank and got a neighbour to rig up the required guttering on her RDP house in Masiphumelele. She is now the envy of all her neighbours who are asking her where/how she got it.

Such an individual effort while worth something, is nothing compared to what the council could achieve through ordering in bulk, making sure the new RDP houses at least have gutters (!) and then seeking sponsorship, development money or loans to install the tanks.

* The City of Cape Town had not responded to this letter by the time we went to print.