Premier Helen Zille has officially declared the Western Cape a disaster area in response to the current drought – the worst since 1904.
“The disaster declaration will accelerate the Western Cape Disaster Management Centre’s project ‘Avoiding Day Zero’, the province’s strategy to ensure that taps do not run dry,” said Zille.
The declaration will be formally gazetted during the course of this week and was signed by the premier during a legislature meeting last week.
As it stands, the disaster will be classified for a three- month period, which can be extended if the need arises.
During such a classification, the Disaster Management Act empowers the provincial government to protect key frontline service-delivery points by reprioritising funding.
The Western Cape Disaster Management Centre aims to avoid “day zero” by managing the current supply of water from different sources, conserving water after the dams have been partially replenished, and managing groundwater resources.
The government has said it will prioritise interventions based on the provincial Drought Risk Register and reprioritise funding to those areas. Should further assistance be needed, the province will approach National Treasury and the national Department of Water and Sanitation.
According to provincial disaster management, the most immediate interventions in the coming days will be:
- The drilling of boreholes at hospitals, starting in the metro, to be followed by schools in high-risk water scarce areas;
- Expediting environmental impact assessments;
- Testing a mobile desalination plant using existing water inlet flows used for the reactors at the Koeberg site;
- Drilling into the Table Mountain aquifer;
- Appointing groundwater specialists in each district. The specialists will identify main ground water sources and coordinate the exploration and management of these resources;
- Assessing the state of water restrictions in the respective municipalities – while local councils remain responsible for making area-specific decisions, the disaster declaration enables the province to issue instructions for any changes to these restrictions that may be necessary for each locality.
During the current declaration period, a provincial inter-ministerial committee – chaired by MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Anton Bredell – will meet regularly to assess immediate threats and recommend interventions.
The province assured the public that the declaration was not cause to panic. A disaster declaration enhanced control by affording the province additional powers of intervention, it said.
The province urged all residents to continue with the existing water-saving measures and to adhere to restrictions imposed in their respective municipalities.