“You can only save water when you have it”

Cape Town – Seeing a 4-year-old child grab a bottle of water and take a sip after not having fresh drinking water for days or even weeks proves that Operation Hydrate is a lifesaver, volunteer and activist Yusuf Abramjee said on Tuesday. This was at the launch of Operation Hydrate Cape Town, a 22-day water collection programme which will culminate in World Water Day on March 22.

To date, 9.1 million litres of water have been collected for communities most affected by the worst drought the country has experienced in over 20 years, Abramjee said. And now the people of the Mother City have been challenged by the movement, in collaboration with the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, to show their charity. Operation Hydrate was started on January 4 when its founding members saw a message on social media that the people of Senekal were in need of drinking water.

Long term solutions

But bottled water is a short-term solution, Abramjee said. “We are now in phase two. Work has started on the first of a series of boreholes and dedicated R1m toward drilling in KwaZulu-Natal. “By the end of this week, we anticipate water will come out.”

MP Mandla Mandela, representing the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said he knew about the reality of not being able to open a tap for a glass of water. “I am from a village in the Eastern Cape and my very own household has no access to clean, drinkable water. We know what a five litres means. It can make a difference,” he said. Government was looking at building a dam to allow better access to water in the Eastern Cape as a long-term solution, Mandela added.

Predicted

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the drought was predicted a decade before becoming a reality. “If only we had listened 10 years ago and had started saving water, then we would have not been in this crisis we are in now.

“You can only save water when you have it.”

Cape Town wastage was the lowest in the country, at 15%, while some drought-stricken areas are as high as 40%, she said. “I monitor the dams of Cape Town very closely. A month ago we were on 42.9%. Today we are only on 40.5%.” The mayor has advised city residents to “stop singing… in the shower” and rather “get in and get done,” and also to close taps while brushing their teeth