Below are the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that we receive from business with regards to the drought, and their answers:
Q: How serious is the drought?
This is the worst drought in the region since records began. For the latest dam and consumption levels, please refer to the following resources:
- City of Cape Town’s weekly dam level and consumption dashboard
- UCT’s Climate Science Analysis Group (CSAG) rainfall monitoring
- Western Cape’s dam levels
Q: What is Government doing to address the drought?
A: All tiers of government are actively responding to the drought crisis through restrictions, reducing their own consumption, awareness raising, augmenting supply, amongst other interventions. For the latest updates please refer below:
- City of Cape Town’s drought updates
- Western Cape Government drought page, including restrictions by municipality
- The Western Cape Government’s Business Continuity Planning Report
Q: What can my business do?
Start your business’ sustainable water journey today to:
- Improve the understanding of our water use and risks
- Increase its water efficiency
- Reuse the water we use on-site
- Access alternative supplies of water
- Work with other businesses to build a better water future together
Figure 1: Stages in the sustainable water journey
As the old adage goes, you cannot manage what you do not measure. This is the first step on the sustainable water journey, and perhaps the most important. Businesses need to get a handle on what their water usage is, where it is being used and for what purposes. This can be done by conducting water audits, by installing smart-meters and/or sub-metering your business property. Metering has proven to be an incredibly effective strategy at identifying leaks, so that they can be fixed quickly. Metering alone has helped businesses reduce their consumption significantly due to the identification of leaks and the subsequent behaviour changes. It is also important to note that large water users (using more than 10 000 000 litres per annum) are required to report their water use to the City of Cape Town.
An example of how water use varies by type of facility indicated here.
Understanding how much water is being used, where and how will help you create a resilience plan with the greatest impact. Furthermore, it is important to evaluate the quality of water required for your various uses, for example, potable water is not required for flushing toilets and therefore alternative water sources could be explored. You also need to evaluate where your biggest risk from a lack of water may arise. If you (or your suppliers or customers) do not have access to water, how will this impact on your business?
Once your current consumption has been benchmarked, the next step is to create targets for your organisation, linking them to individual users and interventions. Here is an example of a water wise pledge by FEDHASA Cape, that reflects commitment to set targets and openness to accountability. Below are tools and case studies that can assist you in this process, categorised into sectors.
The Green Building Council of South Africa’s energy and water benchmarking tool provides a guideline for the calculation of your office building’s water (and energy) use. The tool also benchmarks water (and energy) use relative to similar offices and provides an indication of how well your business is faring on scale of 1 -10. This tool has also been utilised to rate Growthpoint Properties in terms of water and energy efficiency on their free mobile app. The dti also financed a detailed report Baseline water use determination and target setting in the commercial sector. If this all seems too complicated, use on of the many international calculators, with the Kohler example being one of the simplest.
For hotels, lodges and B&B’s that wish to determine where and how water is used in their establishment as well consider what alternatives are available to reduce water consumption the AquaSmart Hotels tool is available on the Water Research Council (WRC) website. Note, it consists of two excel workbooks, the first is the tool itself and the second is a database where water consumption can be stored. Businesses in the sector can also consider utilising posters to encourage water saving by guests.
Health care facilities
For implementing water efficiency measures in health care facilities, refer to the technical memorandum on water use in hospitals.
Industrial water use is highly process specific and therefore varies greatly. This is reflected in the range of Natsurvs undertaken by the Water Research Council (WRC) to consider the benchmarks for different industries ranging from laundry to abattoirs. A summary of the Natsurvs is included here with the full details of the Natsurvs available on the WRC website
For business that are interested in undergoing an audit of their water (and or energy, materials or waste) usage, the National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC) offers free Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production (RECP) assessments, if you are interested apply on their website.
The importance of understanding water use along the entire value chain is illustrated by the case of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): 86% of their total water volume is used by their suppliers, while only 3% is used in their own operations. This allowed them to target water projects where they would have the most impact: by supporting farmers in India. In a similar manner, South African Breweries (SAB) noted that the irrigation of barley is a significant input when considering the full value chain and invested in an alternative irrigation method. SAB also supported invasive alien vegetation clearing to offset its water use, which allowed for the complete offset of their water use at SAB’s Ibhayi Brewery in Port Elizabeth and its Newlands Brewery in Cape Town.
For businesses in the agriculture sector, the GreenAgri website provide a great overview of available options.
Households and small enterprises
For individuals that want to get to grips with how they can reach the 87 litres a day target, the City of Cape Town’s water consumption calculator helps you figure out where you are using water as an individual.
For the residential sector the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies(EDGE) green building certification system provides a measurable way for residential developers to optimise the performance of their building design.
Once your business has identified where its water is being utilised, the next step is implementing water efficient technologies, fittings, processes and behaviours. Toilets, taps and showers typically consume 40-60% of the total annual potable water use in domestic and commercial areas. Therefore, these fixtures are a high impact target area to address when looking to reduce water consumption. They are also relatively easy and cost effective to retrofit with water saving fixtures. Refer to the summary guidelines for the installations of alternative water installations in Cape Town for a comprehensive understanding of the risks and regulatory requirements. These interventions will again vary significantly by sector, but some generic examples are included below.
Water efficient fittings (typically easy to retrofit):
- Hold-flush or dual flush toilets
- Waterless urinals
- Cistern displacement item (older toilets)
- Low-flow aerated taps
- Low-flow shower-heads
- High efficiency pre-rinse spray valves
- Water efficient dishwashers & washing machines
- Automatic switch off devices / motion sensor devices – e.g. for cleaning conveyor belts
Water efficient practices:
- Fix leaks and faulty / leaking equipment & service equipment on a regular basis
- Uncomplicated reporting procedure for staff to report leaks
- Optimise the operation of cooling systems
- Sweeping or mopping floors rather than spraying down floors
- Implement water wise gardening and do not irrigate with potable water
- Only operate dishwashers and washing machines when fully loaded
- Staff training and guest awareness programmes
Many of the water efficient fitting examples included above are relevant for offices, and are easy and cheap to install. For further suggestions, refer to the Alliance for water efficiency. Fournos Group, Tanaz Hair and Virgin Active also highlight some of the interventions they undertook when Gauteng faced drought conditions in 2015. This short ENC report highlights some of these interventions that include: more efficient cleaning and less frequent backwashing of pools. The US EPA has also developed an extensive guideline for best management practice in commercial buildings.
There are a number of guidelines for the hospitality sector, including Best Practice Guidelines for Water Usage for Hotel Industry developed by the water supplies department of Hong Kong. This provides a useful guideline for hotels on where water efficiency interventions can be implemented.Green Hotelier also provides an overview of water efficiency interventions that should be considered their Water Management and Responsibility in Hotels article. In recognition of the severity of the drought, 120 hotel leaders in Fedhasa CAPE signed a water pledge on 5 October 2017 to reduce water consumption (through various measures) and to share water use data. FEDHASA Cape will also establish a water-wise task team to assist members in developing water wise policies and implementation plans. Here is an article on how the city’s top hotels are taking action in the drought climate.
There are a wide range of industrial sector examples of what can be achieved in terms when water efficient interventions are undertaken in manufacturing processes. Coca-Cola Beverages SA (CCBSA) have been able to reduce the amount of water required to produce one litre of soft drink from 2.13 litres in 2010 to 1.7 litres in 2016. Internationally, a wide range of interventions have successfully implemented in a wide range of companies. These include Ford, Kimball Office, MillerCoors, Cascade Tissue Group and BASF.
Households and small enterprises
For households and small enterprises that are interested in getting to grips with water efficient fittings, JG Afrika’s Domestic Water Saving Fixtures Report provides a great overview of possible interventions. This report proposes a DIY water efficient fixture installation guide for domestic / commercial water users to reduce potable water consumption (and associated costs) in homes and offices.
Once the water use has been clearly assessed and efficient processes implemented, the third step is to consider onsite reuse. The primary intention of re-use is to cascade water use between processes where fit-for-purpose quality water is required. Depending on the intended use, the wastewater may require treatment prior to reuse, and may either be treated to potable or non-potable standard. Greywater from commercial and residential properties can be re-used on-site either outdoors (for garden irrigation) or indoors for toilet flushing if treated. Current technologies for outdoor use range from simple low-tech adaptors to automated systems incorporating basic treatment and irrigation systems.
Table 1: Types of wastewater
|Industrial effluent||This is any wastewater generated by an industrial activity.|
|Greywater||Relatively clean wastewater from handbasins, showers, baths and laundries.|
|Blackwater||Sanitation (toilet) water.|
Industrial water reuse is an established and growing sector. For example, Ford has invested more than $21-million in a Wastewater Treatment Plant at its Silverton, Pretoria facility. The processes involved in treating industrial process water are complex, but are incentivised by the City of Cape through their industrial water rebate (section 11.16 of their Water and Sanitation Tariff Policies). This allows businesses to recover some of the capital costs they undertake to improve industrial effluent’s quality and quantity. For more information contact the City of Cape Town.
4. Alternative water-supply
In a drought as extreme as the current one, it may be prudent to explore alternative sources of water to secure your business continuity. However, this should not be pursued before the first three steps of the process have been exhausted. Below are the options available to households and businesses (noting that potable water supply remains the responsibility of the municipality):
Rainwater or stormwater harvesting
Rainwater harvesting should be explored as a possible option to supplement supply, but treated with caution. The Western Cape is predominantly a winter rainfall region, and without significant storage, the captured rainfall may not last long into the summer. However it is a good option to explore if you have significant hard surfaces (roofing and paving) where rainwater could be funnelled and captured. To consider how much water you can collect consider that each square metre of roof area collects 1 litre of water for every 1 millimetre of rainfall received.
The Bayside Mall presents an interesting case where both rainwater and stormwater is being harvested for toilet flushing and irrigation. CTM has also successfully installed at least two rainwater harvesting projects. In addition, CTM plans to consider rainwater harvesting on all new developments as well as part of renovations of existing stores. Utilise the Water Harvesting Tool to help you assess the viability of using rainwater to supplement your supply.
Businesses should protect themselves from the risk of municipal water not being available or intermittent through the installation of on-site water storage. It is also important to note that Cape Town’s Water By-law (2010) section 52d require businesses to have some water storage on site.
Groundwater or borehole use
Groundwater or boreholes are a reliable means of accessing water, however the access to this water is limited and regulated carefully. There are effectively three categories of groundwater use:
- Schedule 1 (of the National Water Act): This is for domestic and non-commercial use only. You will need to register your use with your municipality and ensure that you don’t exceed the abstraction limit of 10 kl/day. This water is typically used for watering residential gardens or common amenity areas
- General Authorisation: This is when you are abstracting more than the Schedule 1 limit noted above or you intend to utilise this water for commercial purposes, but your usage is below your area’s general authorisation limit and therefore doesn’t require a water use license. The limits, as outlined in the General Authorisation for the Taking and Storing of Water, are very location specific. For example, in most of Cape Town, you can abstract up to 400 kl/hectare/year without requiring a water use license, however in Saldanha Bay and Swartland your general authorisation limit is 150 kl/hectare/year. It is also important note that some areas have a zero general authorisation level, and any water extraction above schedule 1 will require a water use license. You may also not extract more than 40 000 kl/year for one property, regardless of the area you are in. If you meet all of the criteria outlined in the General Authorisation, then you must register your groundwater use with DWS, which can take a few weeks.
- Water use license: A water use license can be applied for through the DWS’s online Electronic Water Use Licence Application and Authorisation System (e-WULAAS). Please not that this process can take some time, with the department committing to a 300 day deadline from submission to notification of application decision.
Treated municipal effluent
Municipal wastewater is typically treated to “river quality” and returned to rivers or the sea. However, there is growing recognition of the usefulness of this resource for businesses and industry. While the water has been treated to a safe standard it is not potable, thus not fit for human consumption. The water can however be used for irrigation and could also be treated further, if need be. The City of Cape Town is promoting the use of treated effluent and you can apply to collect this water from your nearest Waste Water Treatment Works (contact details are on the map). Treated effluent water is also substantially cheaper than municipal water so may be a financially sound manner to decrease your business’ use of municipal water. The application form can also be downloaded here.
This drought cannot be fought alone, and it requires everyone in society to work together to ensure we become more sustainable. There are some great examples of what can be accomplished when organisations collaborate to ensure the scarce water resources are used effectively. Strategic Water Partners Network South Africa highlights projects done by a range of stakeholders including: Anglo American, CocaCola, Eskom, Nestlè, SAB and Sasol. WWF-SA’s Water Balance Programme links corporate water users to the health of our natural infrastructure through positive investment into critical catchments. These investments are used to clear invasive alien vegetation to balance the participant’s operational water use, as well as to mobilise the collective action necessary to ensure the sustainability of these interventions.
GreenCape aims to help businesses collaborate and support each other on their water resilience efforts through the sharing of case studies, reports and industry events. Please share your water journey with us so we can publicise it and sign-up to become a member to ensure you receive all the latest correspondence on our events and reports.