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Cape Town Drought: When the political system fails…

The Joint Association Member Meeting (JAMMS) held its biggest ever meeting when over 600 people from the tourism and hospitality industries came to interact with the City of Cape Town and Provincial government over plans for Day Zero – the day most taps are turned off and even stricter water rationing starts – now set for 4 June 2018.

JAMMS represents Cape Town Tourism, FEDHASA Cape, SAACI Western Cape and SATSA Western Cape, who have been trying to get answers for their members from the relevant authorities since a possible Day Zero was first mooted.  With no success.

The panel of speakers comprised:

  • Executive Deputy Mayor, City of Cape Town: Alderman Ian Nielson
  • City of Cape Town’s Director of Water & Sanitation: Peter Flower
  • MEC for Economic Opportunities, Western Cape: Minister Alan Winde
  • CEO of South African Tourism: Sisa Ntshona

Before the invitation was sent out, I asked Enver Duminy (Cape Town Tourism’s CEO) to include Peter Flower because I found that he talks more sense than all the politicians combined.  (Until recently, Council officials were not allowed to talk to the media.)  I also sent Enver the proposal for water committees, and was pleased to see both these suggestions were included.

I was sorry that there was no presentation from Wesgro.  Tim Harris, its CEO, did speak from the floor saying that they have prepared a “best practice” narrative for the industry to convey the message that Cape Town and the Western Cape are open for business.  Their dedicated water website will be launched soon.

What did the speakers have to say?

Peter Flower, City of Cape Town’s Director of Water & Sanitation: “It will rain again, but at this stage it cannot be predicted when the rain will come.. We cannot build our way out of the drought – driving down the demand and stretching what is left in the dams is the main component to getting through this.”

Peter is a 40-year veteran at the City of Cape Town.  Click here for a really interesting overview of Cape Town’s water undertaking.

But is driving demand down enough?  More recently, Fin24 reported: “It is unclear for how much longer the drought in Cape Town and surrounding areas is going to last, but history shows that dry spells in the city have persisted for as long as 15 years,” says Hannes Rautenbach, the chief scientist for climate change and variability at the SA Weather Service.

“The weather records, which stretch back to 1921, show that Cape Town and surrounds experienced a dry spell of below normal rainfall from 1924 to 1939,” he added.

“The last time Cape Town experienced three consecutive years of below normal rainfall was from 1971 to 1973.

“In 2015, 549 millimetres of rain was recorded, making it the second-driest year since 1921; in 2016, the region received 634mm of rain, making it the 14th-driest year since 1921; and there were 499mm last year – the driest year since 1921. This compares with average annual rainfall of 820mm since 1921.”

Climate change does mean that droughts will become more frequent.

Cape Town's rainfall since 1921

Deputy Mayor: Alderman Ian Neilson: “We have to cut down on our consumption if we are to get through this period and not get to Day Zero. We are determined that we should not allow this water crisis to also result in an economic crisis.”

For someone determined to avoid an economic crisis, he showed callous and unsympathetic disregard for statements from the floor about businesses about to close, about difficulties applying for additional water quotas, disdain for small businesses balking at having to apply for business zoning, and the mood of the audience.

He was wholly unimpressive and seemed to defend his position at any cost.  He is an uninspiring leader who seemed prepared to pit the City Council against the citizens.

This prompted me to challenge the City to release water usage statistics for all city councillors and members of the provincial cabinet for the last six months.  Are they walking the talk?  I’ve had Read Receipts from Xanthea Limberg and Priya Reddy, but no reply.  An open and transparent government, or one that needs the PAIA to get the information?

Alan Winde attends a cabinet meeting in jeans and t-shirt

Alan Winde attends a cabinet meeting in jeans and t-shirt

Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde emphasized the contribution of the sector to the economy: “We must avoid Day Zero, because our businesses cannot afford to move into that next stage – this region cannot afford to lose those jobs. Jobs depend on keeping this sector going, but we need to do this in a sustainable way. We need to have a concise and clear message on being open for business to maintain the status quo of the economy.”

Alan is arguably the most respected provincial MEC, walking the talk far more than anyone else.  His streetfront, walk-in office is just one example.  His initiatives like GreenCape are very successful.

GreenCape has a business continuity plan to help ensure  businesses continue to function and provide visitors with a memorable experience, should Day Zero arrive. Visit GreenCape’s drought business support page to find out how their dedicated water desk can offer you specific support on drought business continuity planning.

Alan announced that he would be ditching his suit in favour of a t-shirt and jeans, which he would only change every three days – to save water washing clothes.  I’m not sure that this really will save water (because suits are usually dry cleaned) but it should be a challenge which others adopt widely.  Let’s see who else walks the talk.

Apart from that, Alan couldn’t offer any comfort to the questioners.  It really is an “Avoid Day Zero or Die” situation.

At the end of last year, I read a story in the The New Yorker about Estonia – a tiny country almost a third the size of Cape Town.  There was a sentence that reverberated for Cape Town: “We had to set a goal that resonates, large enough for the society to believe in.”  It reminded me of 1999 when a friend was trying to get municipalities to buy into WiFi-controlled prepaid water meters.  Like Johannesburg’s new electricity meters which can turn off items like hot water geysers to avoid widespread loadshedding, it would provide a far finer control of water use.

water wheelbarrow

Will this be the new status symbol at water collection points? Water is very heavy!

CEO of South Africa Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, spoke of the importance of fiercely guarding the Cape Town as a destination: “We need to protect our brand – it’s under attack. For the next three weeks, South African Tourism will be travelling around the world, spreading the message that Cape Town is open for business. We commit to equipping the tourism sector with knowledge and facts of running businesses within this context of a water crisis. We all need to build and protect the space, and we’re picking up this fight from different angles. The challenge is to remain clear and calm in what we’re doing to achieve productive results.”

Well… let’s see what SA Tourism delivers in real life.

The JAMMS meeting highlighted the fact that the City and Province don’t have answers.  On social media it was also portrayed as a damp squib, offering little of any substance.  Enver Duminy, CTT’s CEO said, “We need to do all we can as industry to take control of our plans to avoid Day Zero, but also to have continuity plans in place when it happens. I also believe that despite the promises to all citizens that the Points of Distribution and Protected Economic Zones, would have been communicated almost a month ago, we are no clearer or closer to understanding which businesses are inside or outside the “zones”. As tourism businesses (big and small) having facts allows us to plan better, and without PODs and PEZs we are no closer to business continuity than we were when the terms Day Zero was coined.”

The real challenge in the days and months ahead are the narratives that citizens, visitors and investors find credible, believe in and buy into.  It is an opportunity to grow a united city, where a vast number of citizens already fetch their water from communal taps every day.  It’s an opportunity for the world’s spotlight to shine on Cape Town’s innovation, social cohesion and resourcefulness.  And that narrative needs to have started yesterday!

That ain’t happening yet nor do I see any roleplayers yet who can make that happen.

It must happen, because access to water is the most racially polarising issue on the horizon.  The wealthy will buy their own desalination plants, water tanks or have their water trucked in.

EPITAPH.
“A well-managed city will never run out of water”
– Patricia De Lille, Mayor of Cape Town

Cape Town’s mayor has been sidelined by her political party, removed from all Day Zero management, and is probably on her way out.

In October 2012 I was asked to attend Cape Town Tourism’s AGM because the City was planning far-reaching changes to the organisation. After the AGM, I approached her and told her that she didn’t have all her facts right. She clammed up, thrust a fork of food into her mouth and refused to speak to me further.  She didn’t want to hear what I had to say.  Grant Pascoe (then Mayco member for tourism) sat nervously watching.

I don’t believe she has a corrupt bone in her body, but I also don’t think that she’s the brightest budgie in the birdcage.  I realised then that she is not open to opportunity.  She adopts her agenda and sticks to it to the exclusion of all else.

Her narrative of the “New Normal” caused more confusion than anything else.  For a city that bragged about its climate change credentials and programmes for nearly twenty years, the cupboard was empty.

If her narrative becomes fact, Cape Town’s tourism, agriculture, property investment and jobs will all be decimated.

Cape Town needs a narrative that will see it through the next two to three years, and it needs to be a narrative that survives way past the drought.  It needs to be far broader that just the drought, showing that Cape Town is a smart and responsive city.

On Facebook, Andrew Boraine, CEO of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership and a former City Manager, wrote about the “dry run” that their office building would be having.  Although their building is likely to be in one of the CBD exclusion zones (which means they will continue to have tapped water after Day Zero) they found that their building was using 80 litres of water per person per day.  Which means office workers use 80 litres a day at work and, hopefully, under 50 litres a day at home.  If ever there was a case for working at home, this is it!  A reduction in the city’s traffic congestion too!

Also on Facebook, Michael Spicer, deputy chair at Wesgro, expressed his belief that “The city is going to make the transition to a sustainable water future, albeit with stumbles along the way.”  It’s the cost of those stumbles that worries me and the need for a cohesive vision, which is still lacking.

Helen Zille, Western Cape premier, “taking control of the water crisis” has been trumpeted boldly. Now this is what she’s really good at!  She was an excellent Cape Town mayor for that time, when the municipality was close to imploding after Nomaindia Mfeketo’s disastrous reign.  She approached the task with gusto and an open mind.  She admitted in my interview with her two months after she became mayor that she knew little about tourism and economic development but her energy and ticking all the boxes dragged the municipality out of the swamp.

She’s no visionary and her grand plans are probably limited to political plans, although she too has been sidelined by her party.  I’ve always seen her as a Super-PA, capable of running the company but not quite having the vision to re-invent the company which is what the Western Cape really needs.   (I do, by the way, rate PAs as the most important people in most businesses.)

Helen Zille judgement sometimes lets her down and she is not without many blind spots.  She retweeted the following image on Twitter, where the DA claimed credit for the Steenbras dam hydro-electric station.

DA's fake news

This is DA dishonesty at its worst. The Steenbras Pumped Storage Scheme was built over 40 years ago – long before the DA existed and party politics played any role in municipal government! It was built when the City of Cape Town’s officials were renowned for their innovation. At the time, the project was scoffed at by Eskom. Years later, Eskom ate humble pie when they built the Palmiet Pumped Storage Scheme nearby. Steenbras Pumped Storage Scheme is unlikely to have ever been built under any party-controlled city council.

Now that mayor Patricia de Lille has been sidelined, JP Smith has been re-instated as Mayco member for Safety & Security. Disaster management falls under his control – and that includes the final plans for Day Zero.  He and Brett Heron (Transport) are arguably the two most competent members of Mayco.

Municipal government is not working for its citizens.  The introduction of party politics at municipal level, and the introduction of executive mayors and Mayco’s, has been a disaster.  Most politicians are not capable of long term planning – their view is from election to election and what will buy them more voters.  Their allegiance is to their party rather than the citizens they are supposed to serve.

Most politicians are also incompetent at marketing or brand building and, when they are, we end up with a Trump or Italy’s Berlusconi.  Politicians are not trusted by most people.

We can’t change municipal government systems now, but citizens can make their displeasure known very clearly.  What we do need now is “a goal that resonates, large enough for the society to believe in.”  So who is going to provide that?

If you still believe Day Zero will not happen, spare a thought for the farmers for whom Day Zero has already arrived.  For some, their irrigation water has already been turned off so that the city has more.  For others, their Day Zero is the end of February.

 

What is CapeInfo doing?  We’ve started promoting businesses that are Day Zero Ready throughout the Western Cape, that will be offering guests all the usual conveniences up to and after Day Zero.  Yes, Cape Town and the Western Cape are open for business.

 

No relief in sight for Cape Town’s drought

Cape Town may have had the biggest storm in 30 years, but the winter rainfall has been far below averages.

2017 Winter rainfall in Cape Town

2017 Winter rainfall in Cape Town

What makes the situation more acute is the fact that there are no reserves — last year experienced similarly low rainfalls.  See the pink line.

Cape Town's rainfall for 2016 and 2017

Cape Town’s rainfall for 2016 and 2017

There are predictions that the current drought could last another two years.

The last time Cape Town experienced such low rainfall was in 1994 — when the city’s population was about 1½ million people less than it is today.  See the purple line.

Cape Town's rainfall in 1994

Cape Town’s rainfall in 1994

Water restrictions in Cape Town were intensified to level 4b from Saturday, 1 July 2017.

The City of Cape Town aimed to reduce collective water usage to below 500 million litres per day.  This requires everyone cuts back on their individual usage to less than 87 litres of water per person per day.

But water consumption increased to an average of 643 million litres per day last week, compared to 613 million litres per day in the previous one.

“The fact that we are still 143 million litres over our 500 million litres per day target means that those who are not reducing consumption are playing with everyone’s future in Cape Town,” the city said in a statement.

“Failure to reduce consumption spells disaster for everyone.”

Click here to explore the data on the interactive rainfall monitor developed by the Climate System Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town.

Tips for surviving the Western Cape’s water crisis

On June 1, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) follows in Eskom’s infamous electricity loadshedding footsteps and plans to introduce watershedding.  Poor planning and management means that Capetonians will be inconvenienced and suffer hardships, but what does it mean for the Province’s tourism industry — its economic lifeblood?

Water dropVisiting Cape Town — and many of the towns in the Province — for a dirty weekend or holiday could take on an entirely new connotation!  The biggest challenge is that no-one knows what to expect.  Will the water supply that allows a shower only last a few hours a day with a lifeline trickle at other times?  Which areas might have to rely on water tankers alone? Continue reading

If dams go dry – what it means for tourism in Cape Town

The latest forecast for Cape Town’s rainfall in June, July and August is that it will be 40% below annual averages.  And there are predictions that this drought could last at least two years.  Cape Town could become the first world city to simply run out of water due to bad management and too much wishful thinking.  And that’s something CapeTalk radio has been emphasizing for months.

Listening to the Kieno Kammies show on CapeTalk last week and the on-air spat about the water crisis between City of Cape Town (CoCT) Mayco member responsible for water, Xanthea Limberg and Tony Ehrenreich (Cosatu), one couldn’t help but feel that politicians put party politics and point-scoring above the interests of the city.  It was a spat that made a mockery of the mayor’s call the night before for everybody to work together!

From News24 — April 3, 2017:
“We will progressively intensify water restrictions and will reduce water pressure further to lower consumption, which could in cases lead to intermittent supply over larger areas of the metro at the same time,” said mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy, Xanthea Limberg.

Rainfall over parts of the city would not materially change the low levels. Should dams reach below 10% of storage levels, a “lifeline” water supply would be implemented.

This would involve minimal supply pressure, intermittent supply, and very stringent restrictions. People in areas with low water pressure might have to get their water from tankers.

The city council could also install water management devices for consumers who failed to limit consumption, even if they already paid the highest tariffs.

So CapeInfo asked Cllr Limburg: “Is the City able to guarantee that tourists who visit Cape Town over the next four months will be able to have showers at their accommodation establishments?  And what restrictions might tourists expect to encounter if rainfall over June, July & August is 40% below the annual average as predicted?”

There was no acknowledgement or reply to the email.    #Fail1

So I copied these questions to Dr Theuns Vivian, CoCT’s Head: Destination Development, since we had exchanged several emails (with no answers) on this subject and emailed, a little facetiously, “I must assume that your destination planning hasn’t taken the availability of water for tourists into consideration at all?”  Of course that got no reply either.    #Fail2

What is the City actually doing, apart from pleading for consumers to use less?
CoCT continues to accelerate its emergency water schemes in accordance with the disaster declaration. This includes:

  • Emergency drilling of boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer, with a yield of approximately 2 million litres per day. (Work on a pilot project will only start at the end of June.)
  • A small-scale desalination package plant, located along Cape Town’s north-western coastline, with a yield of approximately 2 million litres per day.
  • A R120m small-scale wastewater reuse plant at the Zandvliet water treatment works. The plant will produce 10 million litres of drinking water per day for the central and southern suburbs of Cape Town.
  • Intensifying the city’s pressure management and water demand management programmes.

If you tally up all CoCT’s new supplies (2ML/day aquifer, 2ML/day desalination and 10ML/day wastewater treatment) it comes to a total of 14 million litres of water a day.  Last month Cape Town used 720 million litres of water a day (above the 600 million litres a day target set by CoCT).

If the dams run dry of clean water, Capetonians and visitors to the city will have to get by on just 2% of the water they used last month… based on CoCT’s emergency plans.

For a Municipality that has bragged about its Climate Change credentials, this is scandalous.  Everyone knows that our world is getting hotter and dryer, year by year, and that droughts will be more frequent.  So they cannot blame unexpected droughts, only their bad planning and management.

CapeInfo spoke to John van Rooyen, TsogoSun’s operations manager for the Western Cape, Emma King, Communications manager at V&A Waterfront (V&AW), and Enver Duminy, CEO of Cape Town Tourism (CTT), to find out what steps have been taken by the tourism industry.

TsogoSun, V&AW and CTT have done everything that could be expected of them.  (Remember also, that V&AW came top in the world for Responsible Tourism and sustainable development last year!)

John had waited for the meeting with the mayor last Thursday, hoping for something new, before answering my questions. (See mayor Patricia de Lille’s speech to that meeting here.  It contains absolutely nothing new and is totally uninspired and uninspiring.  This sentence beggars belief: “We are currently reviewing our 30-year water plan to give greater consideration to climate change so that we can to see a shift [Sic] where Cape Town will become a water-sensitive city.”    #Fail3 )

John also spoke about the possibility of water in hotels only being available between something like 07h30-09:00 and again between 18h00-19h00.  But how will tourists react?  Will there be no hand-washing all day, no flushing of toilets?  Will accommodation establishments in low pressure areas have no running water at all, with sole reliance on water tankers?  Which are those areas?  No-one has any answers.

Emma met especially with the V&AW Operations Team after my first questions to find out if there was anything new.  V&AW can’t do anything until “the City announces Level 4 restrictions.  We can only develop a relevant strategy for a way forward when we know what those restrictions are.”

Business has done everything that is possible to do individually and through their  organisations.  CTT has been focusing on Responsible Tourism practices and programs since 2009.  “Some of our members have also incentivized visitors to reduce their water consumption in exchange for discounts or free drinks or dinner,” says Enver.  “Along with our JAMMs partners FEDHASA, SATSA and SAACI, we have held meetings with our combined members to discuss the impacts of water shortages in our businesses and felt that we needed more direction and action from local and provincial government in addressing this beyond the water level percentages.

There is a concern that nobody seems to have a clear plan to resolve or alleviate our concernsEnver Duminy, Cape Town Tourism CEO

“Water shortage will and does affect tourism and tourists, however a bigger concern for us is the impact it will have on our very survival as Capetonians irrespective of our sector or industry objectives.  There is a concern that nobody seems to have a clear plan to resolve or alleviate our concerns as citizens.  The only thing I know is that everyone is praying for more rain and more frequently.”  #NotInOurLifetime

Now I know Enver well enough to throw a real curveball of a question, one that many people are too terrified to even think about.  “If tourists planning a visit here in 3 months time asked you if you can guarantee that expectations will be met, or should the trip be delayed given the water crisis, what would your answer be?” I asked.

He answered… “Very good question — my job is always to recommend that people visit Cape Town and, similar to the electricity issues we faced a few years back, we will adapt as locals and business to the changing environment with a better understanding of how to respect and use our natural resources better. I would also ask if they have any ideas on how tourists could play a part in helping us solve our challenges.  And finally, tongue in cheek, ask them to bring some water along from their homes and we will give them discount on experiences.”

Well… providing clean water under pressure is a lot more difficult than buying a generator and plugging it into your building.

I don’t think that Councillor Limberg is up to the job and I do think that she should be replaced immediately.  CoCT needs to put all its cards on the table.  Now.

Eikestadnuus (Stellenbosch) May 11,2017: Only 5.1% left for drinking. Most towns in the Western Cape face a crisis. A few already rely on water tankers for their daily needs.

Eikestadnuus (Stellenbosch) — May 11, 2017:  “Only 5.1% left for drinking.”  Most towns in the Western Cape face a crisis. A few already rely on water tankers for their daily needs.  This photograph shows Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s main dam.  At the end of this week, weather forecasts expect 30 degree centigrade temperatures again in this area.

Postscript

The following email from the CoCT was received after the story was published.

From: Jyothi Naidoo
 Sent: Monday, 15 May 2017 11:18 AM
 To: capeinfo.com
 Subject: RE: Water restrictions & emergency plans

Hi Carl
 Your enquiry has come through to the Media Office for a response.
 I will get input from the relevant people and send through a response a bit later today.
 Kind regards
 Jyothi Naidoo
 Senior Media Liaison Officer
 Integrated Strategic Communication, Branding and Marketing Department
Sent: Wednesday, 17 May 2017 8:03 AM
 To: 'Jyothi Naidoo'
 Subject: RE: Water restrictions & emergency plans

Hi Jyothi
 I’m still waiting…
 Kind regards
 Carl

And we’re still waiting. There was no response whatsoever.

One can only assume that “the relevant people” fail abysmally at communicating.  And that’s bad news for an unfolding crisis.

 

South Africa slips in World Economic Forum Tourism Competitiveness Index

The Asian Tourism Century is Arriving as Japan, China, South Korea and India Boost Region’s Tourism-Friendliness while South Africa drops five places.

  • Asia has most improved its tourism-friendliness of all regions, the 2017 World Economic Forum’s global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index reveals today
  • Japan (fourth, up five places), China (15th, up two) and India (40th, up 12) are Asia’s exponents in the global index led by Spain, France and Germany; the United States (sixth, down two places) and Switzerland (10th, down four) fall back
  • The travel and tourism sector in many countries around the world remains a bright spot in economic and job growth, but technological and sustainability challenges are growing
  • Download the full report, highlights, summary, profiles and rankings here

The 10 most Travel and Tourism-enabled countries

Continue reading

Best News for Cape Town in a long time

The freeways to nowhere on Cape Town’s Foreshore have been a feature of the city for over four decades.  Redevelopment of 6 hectares of the Foreshore should start by the end of next year and will see a big reduction in the traffic congestion where the N1 Freeway enters the city and meets the intersections to the CBD, V&A Waterfront and the Atlantic suburbs.

The introduction of a significant amount of affordable housing in the CBD will also see Cape Town redress its apartheid legacy.

10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy

Buried in Premier Helen Zille’s state of the province speech‚ delivered on Friday in the Western Cape legislature‚ were 10 statistics that will leave the rest of South Africa green with envy.

  1. Unemployment is 13.8 percentage points lower than the national average‚ and rural unemployment (14%) is the lowest since records began.
  2. 56% of mortgage bonds registered by Gauteng residents in the last year were for properties in the Western Cape.
  3. 75% of South Africa’s venture capital deals are done in the Western Cape‚ primarily involving tech start-ups.
  4. International tourist arrivals are up 16% in the past year.
  5. The backlog in issuing title deeds to housing subsidy beneficiaries is 28% — less than half the national figure of 59%.
  6. 234 Wi-Fi hotspots will be added to the existing 150 by the end of the year. They offer 250MB of free data per month‚ then charge R45 for an additional 5GB.
  7. Internet pages opened at Western Cape schools grew from 375 million in June 2015 to 3.8 billion in January 2017.
  8. The value of building plans approved increased by 27% in 2015‚ compared with a 6% decline nationally.
  9. Employment in farming and agricultural processing has increased by 40% in the last two years.
  10. 97% of fires are brought under control within an hour of being reported.

From: http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2017/02/18/10-amazing-stats-thatll-make-you-wish-you-lived-in-the-fairest-cape