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When Day Zero arrives, Cape Town will be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Current dam levels in the city are currently around 26.5%, stabilised temporarily by the 10 billion litres which had been made available to Cape Town by the Groenland Water Users' Association in Grabouw recently.

SACSC CEO Amanda StopsBusinesses in Cape Town are starting to implement effective water-saving measures, with the shopping centre and retail industry already rolling out plans and campaigns to cope with the approach of Day Zero. This sector is one of the hardest hit by the crisis, with water shortages affecting building safety, food preparation and ablutions.

All major shopping centres are sprinkler protected, and the reduction in water pressure results in inadequate pressure for sprinklers to operate. Restaurants and supermarkets need water to trade. Water supply interruptions impact on their business and pose a health risk in that necessary cleaning cannot be done.

Growthpoint Properties, which owns the V&A Waterfront, has started installing boreholes where possible, water tanks, and water purification plants. The company is also securing chemical toilets for the shopping centre. Over and above the extensive water-saving initiatives already deployed, the V&A Waterfront will be constructing its own dedicated desalination plant.

“We have, over the past number of years, implemented a number of water-saving initiatives across our portfolio such as rain water harvesting, waterless urinals, replacing water-thirsty plants with indigenous plants and hard landscaping, abandoning irrigation all together-even from boreholes. However, notwithstanding the above, and in response to the situation specific to Cape Town, we have been running a public awareness campaign at all our shopping centres with posters in all our ablutions and notifications to our tenants. The number of taps in ablutions have been reduced and water flow from the operating taps have been further reduced to a minimal trickle. Our cleaning contractors have been requested to reduce water consumption by using alternative chemical cleaning products and our maintenance teams are on roving schedules to ensure that all installations are free of water leaks. Unfortunately, our efforts are limited to what can be done in common areas and there is little more that can be done. The fact is that shopping centres are public places and we have to have operational ablution facilities,” says Stephan Le Roux, Director at Growthpoint Properties.

Similarly, Hyprop Investments, which is responsible for Canal Walk, Cape Gate and Somerset Mall, has restricted urinal flush water and reduced flushing times on toilets where possible, and has installed aerators on taps as well as auto-closing taps. Hyprop’s Western Cape centres have committed a R19 million CAPEX budget to implement a number of other long-term solutions to safeguard against future water stress. These include installation of large-scale storage tanks for both potable and grey water, furthering filtering of grey water so that it can be utilised in the HVAC cooling towers, for evaporation cooling, and increased set-point temperature to save water evaporating through the cooling towers.

Retailers too, have rolled up their sleeves as Day Zero approaches. Food Lover’s Market, for example, has implemented daily water readings and is working with cleaning companies to limit water usage. In the event of Day Zero, the retailer will develop a plan to make sure cleaning can still be fully completed to food safety standards with water brought in from sustainable sources by the cleaning providers. The company has also implemented water tanks with rain water harvesting and filtration at stores, pack-houses and distribution centres.

Amanda Stops, Chief Executive Officer for the South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC), said that these initiatives provided an indication of what just a few of the role players in the shopping centre industry have implemented to deal with the current water situation in Cape Town. “From the many initiatives detailed, one can see that this is a priority for the shopping centre industry, a situation that has been taken very seriously. The industry is committed to collaborating with all stakeholders and finding solutions in order to continue to provide safe, comfortable shopping environments,” she says.

Table of water contentsTable: Dam % comparison Six Largest Dams in the Western Cape (Department of Water and Sanitation, 2018)

Dam storageDam % Since 2013 (NASA, 2017)

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