Day Zero a big con, says activist group

Water Tap

An activist group believes Day Zero is a hoax conjured up by the City of Cape Town to intimidate residents into saving water and to cause fear and panic.

The Tafelsig Activists Forum, led by chairperson Sulyman Stellenboom, said Day Zero was a money-making endeavour on the city’s part.

“We don’t see Day Zero. It’s just another lie to our people in order to get them to go and buy bottled water. The small shops in our communities like in Mitchells Plain don’t sell bottled water like that. And then they come and install these water meters that have huge costs for the people,” said Stellenboom.

The city needed to educate people on how to read a water bill as many residents were unable to determine if they were paying the correct amount, he said.

The group has also taken issue with South African Breweries still being able to use water from the Newlands Spring to make beer.

“How can we still be using water to make beer if there’s a Day Zero coming? There are 70 springs around the city so there is water and those springs need to be opened so that people can collect water.”

City of Cape Town spokesperson Priya Reddy said anyone who doubted the shortage of water in the city was in denial. “The city’s calculation of Day Zero has always been conservative based on what the past usage of the urban and agricultural users have been. Our dams remain critically low and we have to stretch our supplies through winter and beyond,” she said.

Kevin Winter, lead researcher at Future Water Institute at the University of Cape Town, said Day Zero was a concept that originated on social media, however the term was useful for water management.

“We all make up things because most of our terms and phrases are socially constructed. You can’t really explain to people that there are different phases in a water management plan, but Day Zero is term people can understand,” he said.

Winter said he was optimistic that Day Zero could be avoided.