Western Cape Water Crisis: What does this mean for Schools?

water crisis

Cape Town’s water crisis is no secret; in fact, it’s making worldwide news. If you’re wondering if this will impact your daily life, you’ve come to the right place.

Not a day goes by where Capetonians don’t hear about the water crisis and the threat of Day Zero. While this may sound like a broken record, the water shortage is a cause for concern. Limits have been set: 50 litres per day per person. That’s it. Yes, the water issue just got real.

Doom’s Day

When the shop shelves that once stored 5-litre water bottles are empty, you know the situation is serious.

Reality check: the countdown to Day Zero is on.

Yes, this date has shifted backward and forward.  No, this date has never been scraped.

What is Day Zero exactly? Well, it’s not a day to look forward to, that’s for sure. Day Zero is when running water will be turned off. From that day onwards, Capetonians will need to queue at water collection points for their daily allocation of water.

water crisis

This is not just an inconvenience, it’s a threat to hygiene and the running of daily activities in the city. The potential impact this could have on Cape Town’s businesses and economy, as a whole, cannot be underestimated.

Okay, enough with the heavy. Here’s some good news to cheer you up: the City of Cape Town recently stated that the new Day Zero date has moved from 12 April to 4 June. City of Cape Town Executive Deputy Mayor, Alderman Ian Neilson, is happy with the city’s teamwork,

“Team Cape Town, we are getting there. We now need to see how low we can go to ensure that we stretch our water supplies as far as possible”

School Rules

If there’s no running water, there’s no school. Right?! Wrong!

A school shutdown is not on the cards. Teachers and parents, you can put your minds at ease.

Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, recently met with over 1000 school principles from across the Western Cape. The reason being to address the impact of the water crisis on schools in the province. Zille made it clear that schools need to stay open, as learners have to be able to learn despite the circumstances.  

Our job is to make sure schools remain open and operational, with adequate alternative water supply to do so.”

An education stand-still would also encourage “distractions in communities”. Therefore, the show must go on but…how?

Crisis Management 

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has been pretty pro-active. They’ve joined forces with the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) to suss out the needs of schools when it comes to water security. These officials have developed plans for schools, based on their individual needs.

The worst case scenario has already been thought out and the departments have looked into what schools have, in terms of their ability to source and store water supplies. From here, they are starting to develop some timelines.

Know the Lingo

  • Non-potable water: Water that has not been examined, properly treated. This water is not of drinking water quality, but may still be used for many other purposes.
  • Potable water: Water of a quality suitable for drinking, cooking and personal bathing.
  • Reticulation: A fancy word for a network of pipes.

As it stands, there are about 1000 schools that draw water from the Western Cape Water Supply System. In order to keep these schools open, there needs to be an action plan.

The Game Plan: Which Schools are Safe?

The plan: make sure there is a supply of water to meet a school’s three main water needs of hygiene, fire security and drinking. Therefore, non-potable water will be used for hygiene and fire security. While potable water, from boreholes, and packaged water will be used for drinking.

Game Plan: The Source

Groundwater (from boreholes)
The Cape Argus
published an article which states that 27% of schools in the Western Cape have existing boreholes. The good news is that 76% of these boreholes were working at the time of the survey and 58% are producing potable water. What about the schools without boreholes?

Well, the city of Cape Town is working on repairing the boreholes that are out of action as well as sprucing up those that are in a poor condition. Service providers are also on standby, ready to bore an additional 10 boreholes. The point at which this will happen is yet to be confirmed.  These will be at points where schools without a water source can be supplied with water.

 

water crisis Sea water

 Yup, it’s about time that all that water in the sea is put to good use. So this water can be used for hygiene purposes in the short run. If the situation gets to a point where schools can’t access recycled or borehole water, the Western Cape government may use this water for sewage purposes.

Recycled water

 This might sound a little dodgy at first but it’s actually not. The City of Cape Town has a treated effluent network which supplies many areas of the city. There are 31 schools which already use recycled water and officials plan to work with the city to connect other schools in the province to the network. Wastewater treatment plants produce about 162 million litres of recycled water a day so schools should stay afloat.

Game Plan: The Storage

 The ability to store water is a game-changer for schools. Around 478 Western Cape schools have water storage tanks. The WCED and DTPW are wasting no time in making sure that these tanks (and groundwater supplies) get connected to school facilities.

One of the main goals is for all schools, that are dependent on the Western Cape Water Supply System, to have water storage facilities which are connected to the reticulation system of the school.

Don’t panic if your school doesn’t have a tank! Swimming pools, plastic and metal tanks, as well as water bladders, can all be used for water storage

Small schools need storage capacity of about 10 000 litres a day while larger schools will need at least 20 000 litres. Yup, it’s pretty shocking how much water we need to survive.

Game Plan: The Transport

Here’s the deal: the schools without a water supply will need to get water from a water source. How?

The Western Cape Government has already given this some thought. They plan on working with service providers that are capable of transporting 10 000 – 20 000 litres of water a day to schools.

Water crisis

Step Up to the Plate

If there’s one thing action movies have taught us, it’s that every crisis situation needs leaders to guide the way. While we may not be in an action movie, we are in a crisis. This is the time for principles to lead schools on a water-saving mission.

About 270 schools have teamed up with the private sector and are using smart metering to monitor water consumption. Every school needs a water management system – principles will need to take the lead on this.

Did you know?

Schools only use about 2% of the city’s water supply. However, the impact schools have on water consumption is greater than this as they influence learners and parents

Every Drop Counts

Day Zero can be avoided. It’s not too late to become a water warrior. Here are a few ways you can take action:

  • Stick to 50 litres of water a day (challenge yourself!)
    • How? Calculate your consumption here.
  • Avoid doing dishes (yay, great excuse to be lazy)
    • Use paper plates and cups. If you do use dishes, wait until you have a pile of dishes before washing.
  • Use greywater to flush the toilet (it’s not as gross as it sounds)
    • Greywater is basically the water that would run down the drain when you shower or rinse your dishes. Use a bucket to collect this water. It can then be used to flush the toilet or water your garden. Warning: greywater should not be left standing for more than 24 hours. Hygiene is still important.

This may sound like the effort but once you get into the habit of practising water-saving, you don’t even notice you’re doing it. Motivate yourself by thinking of life after Day Zero. It’ll be pretty bleak. Having no running water is serious. In the words of Helen Zille,

“save water like your life depends on it because it does”.

Deeeep!

EduConnect 2Cents

Day Zero is no joke. Schools, along with ordinary Capetonians, need to make sacrifices and be water wary. Cape Town’s water crisis is serious and the only way to get through it is to work together as a city.

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