How will Day Zero work? Don’t ask the City of Cape Town

Day Zero is coming in Cape Town‚ mayor Patricia de Lille admitted this week‚ but her city council has no detailed plans for how it will work.

After spending the week repeatedly asking for more time to answer TimesLive questions‚ the council finally replied on Friday evening by saying nothing had been finalised.

On Thursday‚ after months of insisting “a well-run city does not run out of water”‚ De Lille said Day Zero — when most taps run dry — was now likely. The latest projected date is April 20‚ but many experts believe it will arrive much earlier.

De Lille said wasteful residents were to blame. “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero‚” she told a news conference.

On Monday‚ the Sunday Times asked Richard Bosman‚ the city council’s safety and security director‚ about arrangements for water collection points — the 200 sites across the city where residents will have to queue for a 25-litre daily allowance.

These were his answers:

Q: Please supply the locations of water collection points.

A: Site assessments are being finalised. More detailed information will be released to the public once the list has been finalised.

Q: For each point‚ please indicate their operating hours and hourly capacity in terms of the number of people who will be able to fill 25-litre containers.

A: Site assessments are determining how many people each site can provide water to and how quickly and efficiently this water can be distributed‚ via how many standpipes. Where possible‚ collection sites will operate 24 hours a day.

Q: Will the city supply citizens with containers? If so‚ when and how? If not‚ why not?

A: Residents will have to use their own containers.

Q: Several questions about how the collection points will function.

A: The city will take reasonable measures to ensure that water rationing happens fairly and appropriately. Households and individuals will adapt to this crisis differently and the city is aware of the need for flexibility at sites.

In terms of preventing abuse‚ we will all need to work together to ensure efficient functioning of the sites and fair access to water for all residents.

During recent planning meetings it has been proposed it would be most workable to allow residents to collect water on behalf of other family members‚ however this has not been finalised.

Detailed plans for how sites will operate are being finalised. More information will be released to the public during the next few weeks‚ but we can assure residents that there will be an official presence at collection points to prevent abuse of the system and to limit undue inconvenience.

Any system we put in place will to a certain degree have to rely on residents to act in a conscientious and conservative manner when collecting water for it to work as efficiently as possible.

Q: What arrangements will be made for people who are elderly/frail/disabled or for some other reason not capable of fetching and carrying water?

A: Priority will be given to the elderly and physically disabled at collection points. Special provision is being made at the points of distribution for separate queues to deal with physically challenged persons‚ so that they do not have to stand in long queues.

We are also engaging with national government‚ provincial government‚ businesses‚ communities and NGOs to support us to care for our most vulnerable residents such as the elderly and those with disabilities. In this regard‚ provision is also being made to provide vulnerable groups such as persons in old age homes with bottled water.

Q: Similarly‚ parents will presumably have to collect the allocation for their small children?

A: The city will take reasonable measures to ensure that water rationing happens fairly and appropriately. Households and individuals will adapt to this crisis differently and the city is aware of the need for flexibility at sites. In terms of preventing abuse‚ we will all need to work together to ensure efficient functioning of the sites and fair access to water for all residents.

Q: Will people be allowed to send proxies to collect their allocation?

A: The city will take reasonable measures to ensure that water rationing happens fairly and appropriately. Households and individuals will adapt to this crisis differently and the city is aware of the need for flexibility at sites.

In terms of preventing abuse‚ we will all need to work together to ensure efficient functioning of the sites and fair access to water for all residents‚ and we are liaising with the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force in terms of what role they can play in oversight.

Q: Time is already short. When do you plan to start the rollout of collection points as well as the verification system that will be required for each individual entitled to collect water and for the amount they are permitted?

More information will be released in time for residents and businesses to make arrangements to accommodate water collection. Site assessments are at an advanced stage‚ with more info to be released over the coming weeks.

Q: Please indicate what security arrangements are being made for each point. Earlier‚ troops were mentioned.

A: In terms of maintaining public order‚ the SAPS and the SANDF are being engaged and will collaborate with the city as per the mandate of each service. Their definitive roles will depend on a joint decision between city‚ provincial and national governments. The city and the Western Cape government have formally requested a national joint instruction (or instruction from the national government to mobilise the SAPS and the SANDF in the Western Cape for joint preparedness and planning activities).

Q: Has consideration been given to the declaration of a state of emergency while the collection points remain in operation?

A: No answer.

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