#CapeWaterCrisis: Day Zero has been moved, now what?

2018-02-14 10:36 - Saara Mowlana
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Cape Town - Each Wednesday the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa releases a water file relating to updates and tips during the Cape water crisis. 

This Wednesday update in particular focused primarily on community and the importance of banding together in spite of the pushed forward date of Day Zero (now estimated on June 4). 

For the full statement released by the WWF, click here.

"Many of us have already realised that we need to start reaching out to others rather than compete with each other in order to cope with less water. A crisis can help to strengthen society, so we can use this moment to do just that. As a community, we will also need strong arms, time, DIY, organising skills, and good communication skills to see us through a period of extremely limited water supplies. We all have something to offer." - WWF South Africa

The statement involves subsections relating to potential FAQs communities may have about the water crisis.

I’ve sorted out all my water needs already, so why should I get involved?

The WWF says that the biggest misconception people have regarding the water crisis is a false sense of security. The assumption that stockpiling on resources (bottled water, rain tanks and boreholes) is enough to save oneself from Day Zero is a dangerous one to cling to.

"These resources alone won’t get us through the crisis. We need access to other resources to collectively save as much water as possible and to cope with a situation in which we have to live with extremely limited water supplies." - WWF South Africa

How can I help?

It is suggested that you consider your skills and abilities that you might have to offer yourself and others during this time. Some examples noted are: being able to fix leaks or solve plumbing/ borehole problems; being able to offer transport to alternate sources of water or distribution points; having strong people to help lifting water containers when water’s no longer available on tap; time to organise solutions in the home or school; access to communication groups (e.g. Whatsapp) to coordinate quick responses; or money to donate to people with little or no income who are struggling to fix leaks and save water.

Who is in my watershed?

If there’s a group that you belong to that would benefit from stronger cooperation around water saving and sharing – now is the time to start the conversation and to connect, coordinate and organise yourselves.

Everyone is really stressed out. How do we stop things from getting out of control?

Everybody has their own opinion and view. Yours may differ from that of family members, friends, neighbours or fellow citizens – and that’s okay. The key, WWF notes, is to listen to each other rather than withdraw and in that way we may be able to come up with creative, workable solutions we haven’t thought of before. Check out the four steps on For the Love of Water, Let's Talk to help you navigate interactions.

How can I go about convening a water meeting?

"If nobody else in your neighbourhood or community has taken the lead yet, consider starting a group yourself. Use existing channels to gauge support from others. If somebody else is thinking along the same lines, then align your efforts with them rather than compete." - WWF South Africa. Take initiative and use one of the many social media or available group chat channels to find people to align with against the water struggle.

What sorts of questions should we be asking at our first meeting?

The questions you pose depend on the type of group you're in. There are different types of framing depending on your relationship with your group members. 

"If it’s a neighbourhood grouping, you might choose to inform residents on how to reduce water use, figure out a plan to help the elderly or other vulnerable people, establish where the wells and boreholes are in your area, how you can treat this water so that you can use it for cooking and how neighbours can access boreholes in the most convenient way possible. You might also need to look at some basic rules such as the fact that you can’t sell water but it might be fair to offer to share electricity costs for pumps etc. In a work environment you might look at continuity plans for employees, assist with access to containers, and communicate information and advice on how to save water at work. Body corporates should also be looking at how to save water and be putting emergency plans in place around issues such as sanitation." - WWF South Africa

Should we still be talking to the City or should we go it alone?

It is important to maintain a solid line of open communication with the City. As individuals and citizens there are certain things completely out of your control and that would require assistance from the City.

"This is where ward councillors and ward committees should also be stepping up as the liaison between the local authority and your community. Some groups, such as neighbourhood watches, already have strong relationships with the local authority and the South African Police Services, so it makes sense to task them with keeping these lines of communication open." - WWF South Africa

I’ve got friends up country who have heard about our problem and want to help. Should they be sending us water?

WWF SA says that this is not the most efficient response and you need to consider all of the plastic waste that will be generated.

"What we need are long-term adjustments to help us out of the water crisis. Out-of-towners might consider other ways of helping – like donating rain water tanks to people who can’t afford them or sponsoring plumbers to stop leaks and to help install greywater systems." - WWF South Africa

Who is up and running already?

The WWF SA lists the following existing organisations:  Philippi Horticultural AssociationSouth Peninsula WaterWater Action Cape Town, the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association and the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership. They also suggest the following sites for tips and information:  Compost Loo and Watershedding Western Cape.

The statement is wrapped up with a Day Zero Prep Bucket List:

  • Find out WHO IS ALREADY ACTIVE in areas of your life most directly linked to water (street, school, work) and join forces with them if you can.
  • TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBOURS to find out what they are doing about the water crisis and to establish your collective resources: Who is a handyman/ plumber; who has access to groundwater or rain water; who is physically strong and can help the less able with lifting water; who has time to assist others?
  • If nobody has taken the initiative yet, convene a meeting to TALK WATER – but be sure to have a clear agenda and to keep it civil.

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