Stemming the spill

A sign outside the office the office at Valley car wash indicating they use well point and recycled water.

As the water saving noose is tightening around the necks of all Capetonians and the City of Cape Town is preparing for a worst-case scenario, far south business owners who heavily rely on water for their operations to run optimally have taken action and are saving thousands of litres of water.

Following the introduction of a three-phase plan by mayor Patricia De Lille last week to avoid critical water shortages, business owners are feeling the heat despite Ms de Lille’s assurance that the City will not allow the city to run out of water.

The False Bay Hospital in Fish Hoek has instituted a water resilience plan which includes various strategies to save water, said Dr Wendy Waddington, manager for medical services.

She said many of the toilet cisterns have been replaced with smaller new cisterns and the others have been adjusted to reduce the volume of water.

The hospital has also implemented an active campaign encouraging staff and patients to save water and chemical hand disinfection is encouraged.

She said efficient use of the autoclave, used for sterilisation, and of water in the kitchen has been implemented and all baths have been decommissioned and showers are kept to two minutes in duration.

The hospital also ensures that all leaks are attended to immediately.

She said False Bay Hospital historically uses 24 000 litres of water a day and its goal is to reduce usage by a further 25 percent.

“Through the False Bay Hospital Association, and the False Bay Hospital Facility Board, funds have been raised to enable us to install a borehole. This will give us a back-up plan should the municipal water fail,” she said.

In addition to this the False Bay Hospital Association continues to pursue support and funding for an ongoing project to harvest rainwater from the roof. This has the potential to supply the hospital with up to 85 percent of its water requirement.

Chris Pearce, owner of Valley car wash in Valyland, Fish Hoek has recently installed a R62 000 system which included drilling for a well point and the installation of a water recycling system consisting of six tanks holding 6 000 litres of water of which 2 000 litres is from the well point and 3 000 litres is recycled.

Mr Pearce has been operating his car wash for the past 11 years and has not used municipal water since March this year.

“I have always been serious about saving water and when the water situation became worse this year, I decided I had to make a plan to keep my business running.”

He was surprised when the Water Board could not give him guidance as to how his business could save water so he decided to do his own research, which showed that a recycling plant would be the best option for his business.He got some quotes but prices were too high so he decided to build his own. He did some more research on the internet and found a website based in India very helpful.

After successfully drilling for a well point on his business premises, he started building his own recycling plant.

“The drilling company had to drill three times before locating water,” said Mr Pearce.

He also had to get the well point water tested to make sure it was iron free as he would be using it to wash cars. “When the water results came back it was iron free so we are extremely lucky as a lot of water in the area contains iron,” he said. And with the recycling plant and the well point in place, the carwash stopped using municipal water.

Mr Pearce said on a busy day, the car wash uses about 1 500 litres of water. The recycled water is used for the first wash and the the final rinse is done with well water. “We are very serious about saving water,” he said.

Mr Pearce said since he installed the recycling system, business has picked up as motorists don’t like cleaning their cars with chemicals other than water. He says some of his customers come from Paarl once a month while others come from Hout Bay and surrounds. He says it is hard work maintaining the recycling plant as the cleaning of the sand and coal filters is time consuming but it is all for a good cause.

Rob Porter, owner of the Muizenberg water slides, said he does not make use of municipal water at all for the slides and derives water from a well point. He said he had to maintain his R5 million establishment and has to keep food on the table so switching from municipal water to well point water was the obvious thing to do. He has also installed a 10 000-litre tank which he uses to filter water for reuse .

Mathea Eichel, co-owner of the Galley restaurant on the Fish Hoek beachfront, said they invested in a borehole three months ago and have recently put up two large water tanks outside the restaurant.

Ms Eichel says the borehole water will mainly be used for washing up while they intend to use the tank water for the toilets although they are currently still using municipal water for flushing toilets.

They will also invest in extra stock of bottled water to be used in the restaurant and for consumption of patrons.

Ben Tuzee, co-owner of Dixies Restaurant in Simon’s Town Road, said they have invested in two Jo Jo water tanks which they will use for washing up and possibly to flush the toilets.

As part of the City’s critical water shortages disaster plan, Ms De Lille said the city would roll-out the installation of water management devices set at 350 litres a day for the approximately 55 000 households who are still abusing water and show no regard for the crisis.

Water pressure has been reduced in recent months to build up reserves and will now be further intensified to reduce consumption.

The City has implemented a three-phase plan to prevent acute water shortages and phase one has currently been activated.

The three phases are as follows:

Phase 1 – The reduction (throttling) of water pressure. This could mean that some areas will be affected for short periods of time which could lead to intermittent, localised temporary water supply disruptions. This process does not result in a complete shutdown of the water reticulation system, but it will severely limit available water supply in the system per day and households should store up to five litres of municipal drinking water only for essential usage.

Phase 2 – This is a disaster stage.The difference between Phases 1 and 2 is that in Phase 1 the throttling of water pressure will reduce usage while in phase 2 , only a certain portion of the water system will be active. Residents will be able to collect a predefined quantity of drinking water per person per day from designated collection sites.

Phase 3 – This is the extreme disaster phase. At this point, the City would be incapable of drawing water from its surface dams in the Western Cape water supply system and there would be a limited period in which the City can continue to supply water before complete water system failure. Non-surface drinking water supplies, sourced from groundwater abstraction from various aquifers and spring water, will be available for drinking purposes only. The City will distribute this drinking water to residents through water distribution points.

“I must emphasise that the disaster and extreme disaster phases (2 and 3) can be avoided with progressive savings and rationing in Phase 1. This extreme can only be avoided if we all do what we need to do now to save water,” Ms De Lille said.