The City of Cape Town would ensure that its water-borne sewerage system continued to function in the event of Day Zero to safeguard public health and infrastructure, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Cape Town is in the grip of the worst drought in a century and faces the prospect of running so low on water that the municipality may turn off the supply to taps and ration residents to 25 litres per person a day. The latest estimate for this unprecedented event is April 12.
The city has been encouraging residents to curb their water use by flushing less frequently. However, if the water flow in the system is reduced too sharply, there is a risk of blockages and raw sewage leaks.
In the event of Day Zero, the city would provide residents with guidelines on managing sanitation within households to minimise the impact on the sewerage system, Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, said.
"Additional actions will be taken by the city to manage any sewage build-up and [it] will use alternative water to flush the system at strategic points," Limberg said.
"We will launch an extensive public health communication campaign before Day Zero to ensure all sanitation systems continue to function and limit the risk and spread of disease," she said.
She urged residents to switch to one-ply toilet paper to minimise the risk of blockages and use contingency sanitary technology such as waterless or composting toilets if they had the means to do so.
Limberg warned residents that the only water the city could guarantee was safe to drink was that which it supplied. She urged residents to restrict their use of alternative untreated water sources — such as boreholes and springs — to flushing toilets.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who has taken political control of Cape Town’s response to the drought, conceded the city had not handled the crisis well so far, saying its communication, in particular, had fallen short.
The Western Cape provincial cabinet resolved on Wednesday to take whatever steps were necessary to recover the money from the national government to cover the cost of the water crisis interventions, he said.