Schools need to be kept open for teaching and learning even if Day Zero hits Cape Town, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said. Picture: Phandulwazi Jikelo/ANA Pictures

Cape Town - Schools need to be kept open for teaching and learning even if Day Zero hits Cape Town, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said on Wednesday.

Addressing over 1 000 school principals from the greater Cape Town, Drakenstein, Stellenbosch and West Coast areas, which all draw water from the Western Cape Water Supply system, Zille said it was imperative that schools stayed open should Day Zero -- when taps in homes formally run dry -- arrive.

"Whatever happens during this crisis, our attempt is to keep schools opened and fully operational with water," she said during a meeting with school principals at the Western Cape Sports School in Kuilsriver.

"Cape Town can still avoid Day Zero if all residents use less than 50 litres of water per person, per day. This must be the first priority.  However, the Western Cape Government must be ready to augment water supplies to schools, if consumption targets are not met and our dam levels reach 13.5 percent before the winter rains. At this point, the City of Cape Town intends to turn off water to most areas in the metro, in order to manage and preserve the remaining supply. Our job is to make sure schools remain open and operational with adequate alternative water supply to do so."

Zille said that schools served a very important role and keeping them going would be vital to "avoid distractions in communities".

Officials of the Western Cape Education Department and the Department of Transport and Public Works have surveyed the needs of schools extensively over the past six months to ensure water security at schools and to ensure water for hygiene and fire security and drinking water.

"In the very worst case scenario, which we are doing all we can to avoid, areas dependent on the Western Cape Water Supply System may be without surface water until August. Schools have mainly used water from the reticulation systems of municipalities. Our main focus now will be on ensuring that schools have the additional facilities they need to source, store and use augmented water supplies, up to and beyond the anticipated Day Zero," said Zille.

She said officials developed plans based on the overall needs and were now finalising the needs of individual schools. The departments investigated what schools already had in place to source and store augment water supplies, what schools still need, and timelines for further action.

"Service providers are standing ready to drill a further 10 boreholes at strategic points to supply groups of school that have no or insufficient local source of water. They are also working to rehabilitate as many of the non-functioning boreholes and those that are in a poor condition to bring them back into service," Zille said. 

She said Western Cape government will consider sea water in cases where schools cannot access borehole or recycled water for sewage purposes.

Officials have established that 478 schools within the metro and Winelands and West Coast districts have at least water storage tanks. Most of these schools also do not have a borehole. They include 275 schools in metropolitan districts and 203 in the West Coast and Winelands districts.

"The Western Cape Education Department has tasked the Department of Transport and Public Works to install reticulation systems to connect all tanks as well as groundwater supplies to the school facilities, and this work is well underway. A key priority is to ensure that all schools dependent on the Western Cape water supply system have at least water storage facilities which are plumbed to the reticulation system of the school. Smaller schools need capacity to store at least 10 000 litres a day for ablution facilities and cleaning and 20 000 litres for larger schools."

Zille further urged school leaders to have water management plans stating that the WCED had provided guidelines on water management to schools last year and again in January.

She pointed out that "many schools have done so, and many principals are providing excellent leadership on water saving in their schools and communities, for which we are extremely grateful".

"Principals will continue to play a key role in public education on responsible water use. It is worth noting that schools use about two percent of the City's water supplies. Schools can influence the use of many times this via our learners and parents in our schools."

African News Agency/ANA