People queue for water at a supermarket in Ottery. Picture: City of Cape Town

Cape Town - While Cape Town consumers and businesses are bracing for Day Zero, others are cashing in on the worst drought experienced since 1901.

Economist Dawie Roodt said the drought has opened markets for some, while others are facing the prospect of closing down operations and cutting back on jobs.

Roodt, economist at Econometrix, said droughts are natural and “this leaves a gap for some innovators to come up with ideas to cash in on the drought.

"Without water we cannot operate an economy. But all of a sudden we see people and companies coming up with ideas to ensure that there is still water in the Cape.

"We see all types of schemes, from water management devices to desalination plants. There is now a market for those in the water business,” he said.

Roodt said there are, however, negatives that could stem from the drought.

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“Water is life, as they say , and no water could mean the end of civilisation. But it won't mean the end of Cape Town, because the city is part of South Africa.

"This is huge, but Capetonians will push through. It will cost them heavily, but I do feel they will get through it,” he said.

An estimated 50000 jobs are set to be lost in the agricultural sector.

Tony Marchesini, the managing director and franchisor for H2O International SA, said he has been operating his business for the last 30 years.

“There are a great deal of people scrambling for water.

“In these tough times we have had to change our operations and think clearly because the circumstances of today are very different. We have tried telling people that the water they buy must be part of the new 50-litre allocation per day in a bid to save water,” he said.

Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation, said the sale of municipal potable water is illegal.

“There is also legislation regarding the sale of borehole water as well as other sources of water. The sale of municipal water impacts on the Western Cape dam system that we are already trying to stop from running out completely. All complaints should be reported to the City.”

A windmill pumps water from a borehole. File picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and sanitation, said the sale of unmodified municipal water is unlawful in terms of by-laws.

It is, however, not unlawful to sell “prepared water” - water that has been modified with added flavours, bubbles, or otherwise.

“In general, it depends on the source of the water.

“If water is being taken from the municipal supply it will constitute the resale of water which is prohibited in terms of section 31 of the City of Cape Town's water by-law of 2010.

“A person who does this would then be liable to a fine or imprisonment.

“If a company is abstracting water from an alternative source (other than from the municipal supply), for example from boreholes or springs, then a formal application must be sent to the national Department of Water and Sanitation.”

Cape Argus