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Activation of Disaster Operations Centre

On Monday 29 January, the City of Cape Town will be activating the Disaster Operations Centre (DOC) to execute the City’s Water Disaster Plan, which will take effect in the event of Day Zero.

Executive Director: Safety and Security, Richard Bosman will be permanently seconded as Incident Commander to the DOC.

While the City is focusing all its efforts on beating back Day Zero, we do need to be prepared for a scenario where we take control of the City’s water supply in order to extend it into the winter months. We will shut off supply to taps when our dams reach a collective level of 13,5%.

In order to avoid this, we must reduce current consumption to 450 Megalitres of total consumption a day. This equates to 50 litres per person per day. Many Capetonians have reduced their consumption substantially over the past few months, and we call upon all residents to join us in our savings drive.

Since March 2017, the City’s Water and Sanitation department has introduced various initiatives to lower water demand, including advanced pressure reduction to lower the rate at which water flows, and the installation of water meters to reduce consumption. We will continue with these initiatives over the next few weeks to extend our water supply for as long as possible.

Together, we can beat Day Zero.

That said, we need to be prepared in the event that we do not.

When our dam levels reach 13,5%, we will begin to shut down our reticulation system, except to key commercial areas and institutions such as hospitals. Once this happens, residents will be able to access water from collection points across the City. Each resident will be allocated 25 litres of water a day. There will be separate sections for pedestrian and vehicle access, as well as access for those collecting on behalf of vulnerable groups.

It will be the task of the DOC to manage the water collection points. A great deal of preparation is being done to ensure that this happens as efficiently as possible.

The City’s Disaster Risk Management Department has been consulting with the international community since early last year on how best to distribute water in a time of crisis.

The water collection points, which have received the lion’s share of the attention over the past weeks, are only one layer of the Disaster Plan.

They are a means of last resort.

Water tankers will be used to deliver water to vulnerable groups such as old age homes and care facilities. We are also engaging retailers and the bottled water association to ramp up their distribution networks to increase bottled water supply, so that those who do not want to use the water collection points can purchase water.

The detail around how these water collection points will be managed has captured much of the public’s attention and we understand the panic that has arisen as people begin to imagine what their lives will be like if they have to queue for water every day. This crisis will demand a whole of society approach, where we all pull together to get through this.

If we want this Disaster Plan to be adopted with as little risk and inconvenience as possible, we have to look at the local context of each water distribution point.We need to build flexibility into the way each individual point is managed.

We need to anticipate what strategies households and businesses will employ to meet their water needs in the case of Day Zero, and how we can support these strategies.

We are designing the collection points to ensure that they can be managed in the most efficient way possible. In order to do this the Disaster Risk Management Team has been considering the following questions:

  • what range and size of containers will people choose to use;
  • how will they carry these containers to and from the standpipe;
  • what time of day will they come to the Collection Point;
  • what transport will they opt to use to and from the Collection Point;
  • how will families and neighbours organise themselves to collect water in a way that makes sense;
  • who within the household or business will be designated to collect water and for how many people will they collect;

For the next two months we will be trouble-shooting each Water Collection Point so that, if Day Zero arrives, people are able to collect water as quickly and safely as possible.

Many people have been concerned about how the amount of water people collect will be monitored.

We want to stress that no one will be turned away from the Water Collection Points. All persons living in Cape Town will be entitled to collect water at these points. No one will be required to provide any identification to collect their daily allocation of water.

The collection of water will only be regulated in order to prevent any one person from collecting far above their daily water allocation. Officials will be onsite to monitor potential abuse, and residents are also encouraged to report any abuse they witness.

The security of the Water Collection Points is another concern.

We are busy categorising the Water Collection Points in terms of High Risk, Medium Risk and Low Risk and the deployment of security staff to these sites will be aligned to this rating. The services included in the deployment will be SAPS, Metro police, traffic and law enforcement. We will also look at involving community neighbourhood watches where feasible.

SAPS and the SANDF have confirmed that they will assist the City to secure the Water Collection Points. The deployment will include inner perimeter security as well as outer perimeter security. There will be static deployment as well as rotational vehicle patrols.

Every possible contingency is being considered and we will continuously evaluate and fine-tune these measures in the lead up to Day Zero, and in the days that follow.

We are well aware, however, that despite doing everything possible to ensure the smooth operation of the Water Collection Points, the act of collecting water will be a massive inconvenience to Capetonians.

If we don’t want to queue, we must save water now. If we can keep our daily water use below 50 litres per person, we can avoid Day Zero.

The City will hold weekly media briefing sessions at the Disaster Operations Centre to ensure that we are able to address the many concerns the public have about the Disaster Plan and Day Zero. We will also provide regular updates on our augmentation and demand management efforts.

We have drawn up a list of frequently asked questions that members of the public can consult, and will be adding to it as we are able to provide more information, and in response to the feedback we receive from the public.

We are also introducing two email addresses that organisations who wish to assist in supporting our vulnerable residents may contact:

We have seen many times in the past how communities galvanise in times of crisis. We have been overwhelmed by the response we have received so far from Capetonians who want to help. Thank you for your generosity and willingness to serve.

However, and it cannot be stressed enough, we will be able to avoid running out of water if we all join in the effort to bring individual consumption down to 50 litres a day. Together, we can defeat Day Zero.

Issued by: Media Office, City of Cape Town

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