Water warrior on a roll

Karen Ontong of Blackheath points to the bucket that collects water from the air-conditioners at the Monte Vista Meat Market .

Despite obtaining assurances from local government that Day Zero has been pushed back to 2019, a Monte Vista butchery manager has not become lackadaisical about her water saving measures.

Karen Ontong from Monte Vista Meat Market has continued to collect water from the store’s fridges and air conditioners to clean the shop’s floors.

She also takes buckets of water home, which she uses to water her plants, clean her house and flush her toilets.

Research on long-term weather data done by the University of Cape Town found that 2015 to 2017 had been the driest three-year period since 1933, and 2017 was the driest year since then.

UCT’s study also found that a drought of this severity would statistically occur only once every 311 years.

Ms Ontong, who has worked in Monte Vista for the past six years, said the severity of the drought had crept up on Capetonians.

“We only realised this after watching the news that the dams were slowly becoming empty,” she said.

The dreaded Day Zero, when the water supply will be switched off, has been changed three times by the City of Cape Town. First it was predicted to happen on Friday May 11, then brought forward to Monday April 16 and then moved back to Sunday July 15. Now residents have been told it could take place next year.

“When I initially became aware of the crisis, I started using the defrosted water from the fridge to use around the house. I don’t own a Jojo tank but I use my refuse bin and buckets to catch the rain water,” she said.

Ms Ontong said her beautiful garden had become barren due to the water shortages so she opted for paving instead. “The paving is costing us a pretty penny and we now only have a small patch of garden,” she said.

She believes many residents are in denial about the possibility of Day Zero taking place.

“Many of them exceed their daily water usage without batting an eyelid. My husband, Edmund, and I collectively use 50 litres per day. I feel that people need to realise the seriousness of the drought before it’s too late,” she said.

Ms Ontong does not believe that Day Zero is “gone”.

“I am still carrying on saving water. I, unlike many, don’t want to become stuck in a comfort zone when it comes to Day Zero. My husband I still continue to also collect our 25 litres a person allocation of water from the Newlands (spring) every week. We use it for drinking water and it lasts us an entire month,” he said.

A video store employee who has lived in Monte Vista for the past two years, Waldo Louw, 19, said he is also still collecting his shower water and rain water in Jojo tanks to use for flushing the toilet and watering the garden.

The teenager urged residents to be conscious about saving water. “I don’t think we can predict the outcome of the water crisis so I believe it’s imperative for people to save water,” he said.

In a press statement, Deputy Mayor Ian Nielson said its advanced pressure management programme was yielding results with 50 million litres of water being saved on average a day through the efforts of its water and sanitation department staff. “We are constantly seeing water-saving world-firsts in the making and we must continue our efforts to stretch our water supplies. We must use only 450 million litres a day to stretch the available water supplies through the rest of the year, come rain or shine,” he said.

The City’s Day Zero dashboard, revealed on Monday April 16 that collectively the provinces dam levels are currently at 21.5 percent.

“The first water has been delivered at our Waterfront desalination plant which has a capacity for producing two million litres per day. Work also continues at our other desalination plants and on our aquifer programme as we strive to bring additional supply online. Water management devices continue to be installed on the connections of high water users who are in contravention of water restrictions, and additional teams are working around the clock to detect and repair leaks,” Mr Nielson said.

Ms Ontong urged people not to become complacent as the water crisis is “real”.

* Additional information from “A detailed look at the drought data”, UCT, January 22, 2018.

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