As Cape Town faces one of the worst multi-year droughts ever recorded, Capetonians are facing the risk of disease outbreaks as contamination of dams and stored water at homes rises.
And with Day Zero set for June, many people are already resorting to storing drinking water supplies at home to avoid having to stand in long queues when D-day comes.
But experts warn that while storing water may look to be a quick solution, this might be unfavourable for people’s health as it might result in bacteria build-up.
Dr Jo Barnes, a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University, says while water is essential for health, and without it people die, ensuring its safety is as vital.
“The most likely crisis that will kick in first is the transferral of diseases by direct transmission from the water or from lack of proper hygiene. The other big risk is contaminated food grown with polluted irrigation water.”
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said while many residents have resorted to storing water in bulk in preparation for Day Zero, he warns that this should be handled with care as stored water can easily grow bacteria and algae posing a health risk.
“Water quality starts decreasing after three days, depending on storage conditions and container quality.
“Residents are therefore advised to use clean and sturdy containers of good quality with screw-closing tops. Ideally get a container that has a tap fitted,” said Smith.
He advised residents to mark water containers with labels such as “drinking water only”. Water should be stored in a cool dark place; containers rinsed and sanitised weekly.
Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja, says, “From a health point of view, we always advise the public using river or borehole water to boil it before consumption to avoid water-borne diseases.”