This is according to Karl Westvig, the chief executive of Retail Capital, which provides working capital to small businesses.
Westvig said small and medium-sized businesses contributed more than 65% to South Africa’s employment and 50% to the country’s gross domestic product, so their survival was essential.
He said the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that many businesses were cutting down drastically on water and planning for Day Zero.
Most businesses surveyed by the chamber said they would continue operating throughout the water crisis. However, nearly 7% of businesses planned to shut down if or when Day Zero arrived.
Chamber president Janine Myburgh said a strong indication that the situation was getting worse is that 79.4% of respondents now saw the water crisis as a threat to their businesses, compared with 51.4% last October.
“Business has more faith in rainwater tanks, boreholes and new technology than in conventional water supplies. The feeling is that the authorities have done too little too late, and the only solution is a major desalination plant rather than the small ones the City has proposed,” said Myburgh.
She said the survey showed that 87% of business had more than halved their water consumption.
Westvig said a task team from Retail Capital recently visited small enterprises in the Eastern Cape, where they encountered mixed reactions to the water crisis.
“Many small business owners are still in denial, and overall there is a great deal of confusion. It’s business as usual for some, whereas other businesses have been stockpiling water for up to 12 months.”
Retail Capital also found that many small businesses were innovating.
“Other provinces can learn from the Western Cape by investing in boreholes, water tanks, planning private reverse osmosis desalination plants, importing or harvesting water from air, chemical or portable toilets,” said Westvig.
He said other businesses were unsure of how they would operate with little to no water, with hair and beauty salons, laundries and the hospitality sector reliant on a large water supply to continue operating.
“We’ve seen salons asking patrons to bring in their own water for hair washing, but even this may not be a solution, when people are using what little they have sparsely, at home or at work.”
Spur’s chief operating officer, Mark Farrelly, said: “We have provided all our franchisees a blueprint with regards to water-saving measures and have made provision that we will always have water for all our patrons.”
Felix Ratheb, the chief executive of Sea Harvest, said: “We have taken the company off the grid completely and are selling some of the water back into the municipal supply.”
Joe Szemerei, the executive director for individual and volume business at Indwe Risk Services, said nurseries, swimming-pool installers and car washes were examples of sectors that were feeling the brunt of the water restrictions, as were industries such as food, beverages, tourism, mining, wine, power generation and construction.
Szemerei said that agriculture was one of the hardest hit sectors, with less planting and harvesting, and workers being laid off.
“However, there are also industries that are booming. Companies that sell water tanks are experiencing a surge in business, as are those that provide artificial lawns, while there has also been a huge demand for borehole drilling as people look for alternatives to municipal water,” said Szemerei.