By Mbalenhle Khuzwayo
This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Cape Town has experienced drought stress since 2014, but the severity of the situation deepened this year with the arrival and eventual conclusion to Day Zero. Consequently, there has been emphasis on reducing water consumption and saving water.
Cape Town is currently the first major city in the world, that has come this close to running out of water. South Africa has about 4000 dams, only 350 of which are owned by the government and the rest are privately owned. However, only 6 major dams provide water supply to Cape Town, all of which are privately owned.
These dams prioritize agrarian water consumption with the rest of the city having to make do with the remains. Agriculture is a significant part of the South African economy but its maintenance currently exists at the expense of South African citizens. The phrase “being poor is expensive” comes to mind when discourse around saving water is around how water in the informal settlements is wasted.
When in actuality being poor and wasteful is counter-intuitive to saving in general, not just water which is critical for survival. For instance, in Khayelitsha, thousands of inhabitants share a single tap which is used to fill up single containers for an entire household to utilize. Centering poor South Africans as scape goats for Cape Town not meeting water saving targets, is problematic to say the least.
Especially, when the areas with the most water consumption, according to the department of water and sanitation, are places like Crawford, Constantia and Tokai in the top 10. Which are middle class to upper class suburban areas that have pools and garden fountains that consume large amounts of water collectively.
Yet, there is little to no coverage on how the wealthy are the least accountable in reducing water consumption often at the expense of the poor.
The drought is not under anyone’s control; however, alleviating excessive water consumption of an entire city is a collective effort. If those who have had to make do with little to nothing during their menstrual cycle, what is stopping you as an individual who has more? If anything, I am personally grateful for the awareness this water crisis is creating about socio-economic inequality and how as a country we all need to do better by each other whether in Khayelitsha or Constantia something has to give. Especially for the greater good.