Brandon Herringer testing one of the taps that will assist Maitland residents when Day Zero arrives and the taps are turned off. Picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency/ANA
Cape Town - More than 6.7% of businesses in Cape Town will shut down on Day Zero and 11% will send their staff home, but 69% will carry on regardless according to a survey by the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A strong indication that the situation is worsening is that 79.4% of respondents now see the water crisis as a threat to their businesses. Answering the same question in October last year, 51.4% saw the crisis as a threat to their viability.

“It is clear that businesses in Cape Town believe that there has been too much water politicking and too little sound planning,” said President of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janine Myburgh.

The survey drew more than double the number of respondents to previous surveys by the Chamber.

“The one bright spot in the responses is the extraordinary efforts businesses are making to provide for their own needs and to prepare for the possibility of a day zero,” said Myburgh.

“Business clearly 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 now is a major desalination plant rather than the small ones the City has proposed.”

The survey revealed that 87% of business have more than halved their water consumption.

Plans to deal with day zero include chemical toilets in the basement and asking staff to bring their own water to work. Many firms said they had stocked up with bottled and tank water and others were regularly drawing water from springs. Some companies have arranged to import water from other areas. Many said they planned to work in shifts so that staff would have time to queue at water points.

Asked about their plans to augment their water supplies, 55% said they would harvest rainwater while 33% said they would resort to boreholes and well points. Seventeen percent said they were using recycled water from the City. Five percent are harvesting water from the air. Several companies reported that they are planning their own reverse osmosis desalination plants.

The survey indicated that major investments were being made in grey water systems. On a smaller scale, others were switching to paper plates and cups to avoid using water for dishwashing. Restaurants said they would no longer use linen tablecloths to save laundry water.

In one case a landlord evicted a tenant from his building for using too much water and suffered an R15 000 a month loss of rent.

Myburgh said the water crisis was afflicting Africa’s top tourist destination and it was credit-negative as it would reduce revenue at a time when the city had to boost spending to ensure supplies. Agriculture would also suffer, leading to lower employment and a reduced tax income for the government. Other effects included threats to public health from poor sanitation and, more generally, to social order.

Cape Argus