Cape Town - Day Zero will more than likely become a reality as 60% of Cape Town’s consumers are wasting water.
Day Zero is when most of the city's taps will be shut off and residents will have to queue for their daily ration of 25 litres of water per day.
Mayor Patricia de Lille also announced on Thursday that the drought levy is likely to be scrapped following the public outcry.
She said they would now have to make deep cuts to their budgets.
“We are now at a stage where we are going to ask people to use 50 liters per person per day,” she said.
“I understand the responses and it has personally been a tough lesson for the City. I just want to you to know that City proposed the charge because we wanted to keep delivering important and essential services during the crisis,” she said.
Level 6B water restrictions will also be introduced on 1 February and come after months of the city of around four million people missing the 500 million litre per day collective consumption target.
“We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them. We have listened to the comments of thousands of residents asking for fairness,” she said.
"Despite our urging for months, 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day. It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero. At this point, we must assume that they will not change their behaviour."
The new daily collective consumption target is now 450 million litres per day. This will be in place for 150 days after which the City will reassess the situation. Level 6B restrictions will also limit irrigation using boreholes and wellpoints.
At the media briefing held at the Cape Town Civic Centre, the City moved to assure residents that Day Zero does not mean the region will completely run out of water, but simply that the City will have almost total control over water usage.
De Lille added that the City has advanced its planning for Day Zero, with approximately 200 public sites having been assessed. "The City will be announcing everyone’s local collection points from next week so that communities can begin preparing for that eventuality," she said. "We will also be making detailed Day Zero contingency plans available soon to answer all questions that residents and businesses might have.
"In terms of the City’s work, we have been working hard to reduce demand through advanced pressure management, massively ramping up the installation of water management devices at high consumption households. Our teams are also significantly intensifying the leak detection and repair programme, and we are rolling out education and awareness campaigns and extending our use of the treated effluent system which offsets the use of the drinking water for non-potable purposes.
"Teams are working around the clock to deliver the emergency plan for desalination, groundwater and water reuse. But, as I have already said, this alone will simply not be enough to avoid Day Zero without savings from all residents."
She said that on Day Zero, the city will move into full-scale emergency stage 3. This means that water to households and businesses will be cut off. There will not be enough water in the system to maintain normal services and the taps (and toilets) will run dry. Only vital services will still receive water. These are hospitals and clinics, stand-pipes in informal settlements and the 200 points of distribution (PoDs) where people can collect their allocated 25 litres per person.
All other mains water supplied by the city will be cut off. Most schools will have to close if they don’t have their own safe supply from boreholes or rainwater tanks. Many businesses will not be able to operate unless they can provide temporary (off-mains) toilets and drinking water.
The City further said that once the taps are switched off, "we don’t know how long it will be until they are switched back on again for different neighbourhoods".
"The amount in the dams will take months to recover. It is likely that if we have the same amount of winter rainfall as last year we will not see an increase in the dams until August. It could be that re-establishment of basic water services will only happen deep into the winter months.
"We should be prepared to live with very little water for at least three months and possibly up to six months after Day Zero, but it all depends on when rain falls in the water source areas that feed the dams."
The full City Council will vote on drought matters on Friday.
Additional reporting by ANA