Western Cape is synonymous with beauty and splendour, from Table Mountain to the scenic Garden Route stretching along the southern Cape coast. Recently attention has been shifted to the reality of a looming Day Zero scenario. Western Cape has been battling the effects of drought since 2015, resulting in the region experiencing severe water shortages. Capetonians, nevertheless, have remained hopeful that approaching seasonal rains might alleviate some of the damage caused by the drought. Their ingenuity and communal effort have pushed out Day Zero until 2019. In such a crisis, a project management plan needs to be sensitive to resources, critical of risks, and able to identify problems at their source in order to mitigate further damage.
Safety in methodology
Acknowledging there is a problem is the first step towards finding a solution, and while it is important to provide short-term relief, a permanent solution is vital. Any project, whether long- or short-term, must first observe certain regulations that ensure the methodology used is environmentally mindful. In the case of the borehole drilling near Steenbras, ecologists cautioned that the impact could have serious consequence for neighbouring settlements. An experienced project manager does not only consider the immediate ramifications of an action, he forecasts the potential to exacerbate the problem.
The political impediment to a drought solution
Head of ETM Macro Advisors, Russell Lamberti, argues that the Cape water crisis should not be blamed on a freak drought, a lack of adequate municipal planning and resource management, and on Capetonians who “use too much water.” Ill-defined market prices, state monopoly inefficiency, and excessive demand due to under-pricing are taking a toll on the supply of usable water. Water-preserving devices have become increasingly popular with over 2,000 water management devices (WMD) installed on properties on a weekly basis. Another WMD installation program called “indigent water leaks project” allows poorer residents who agree to have the devices installed to have their debt scrapped.
A crisis cannot be postponed
South Africa will run out of water by 2030 unless there is a major shift as to the true value of water, as well as an R899 billion investment into the sector for the next decade. Experts believe that the drought could have been avoided with early warnings coming in 2007 when the Department of Water and Sanitation issued a warning about Cape Town’s water supply, explaining that by 2015 the city would need new water sources. There is a strong case to be made for experienced practitioners and reliable data, but if the political system keeps interfering with the conditions necessary to handle the crisis effectively, pushing out a deadline, we will inevitably have to confront even larger problems.