Countdown to Cape Town’s Day Zero: 92 days to go

7 Feb 2018


Its 92 days to go before Cape Town hits #Day Zero, a day when water taps are set to run dry in South Africa’s second largest city with a population of four million. The city has been hit by drought weather condition three years in a row.

If and when Day Zero comes, there wont be water flush toilets from the public system. Affected people will have many questions in their minds. Here are some of the critical questions and answers from the  WWF‘s latest edition of  Wednesday Water File.

  1. After Day Zero will I still be able to flush my toilet with rain water/greywater?

You should be able to flush your toilets with rain water, greywater or groundwater as long as the sewer systems are still functional.  It would be wise to use as little of your precious daily allocation of drinking water for flushing – so it is worth considering alternative dry options both to save water and to be ready for Day Zero.

  1. Why can’t I just flush with sea water?

Flushing with sea water in the metropolitan area is NOT an option.  Sea water flushing will increase salt in the waste water treatment plants, and if the salinity levels get too high the microbes which treat the sewage can’t survive and the treatment plants will stop working. Then we would end up with an even bigger problem as our waste water plants would become inoperable.  The same principle applies to septic tank systems which rely on microbes to decompose the sewage. Suburbs on the Atlantic seaboard (Green Point, Sea Point, Camps Bay and Hout Bay) discharge sewage out to sea via a pipeline; under emergency conditions you can flush with sea water in these areas but the salinity may damage the infrastructure.

  1. Will the sewer systems still work after Day Zero?

The City of Cape Town has indicated that the sewer systems will continue to work after Day Zero. They intend to flush the system at appropriate points to keep the sewage moving. The city engineers are working at ensuring that the system continues to function in order to protect the health of the public as well as the infrastructure.  Our sewage system has not worked under these conditions before and we should expect the unexpected – treatment plants or sewerage pipes could fail under these extreme conditions and we should all be ready to make contingency plans.

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