What's going on with the drought in Cape Town...

We take turning on a tap for granted but millions in South Africa are running out of water.

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Cape Town and some surrounding areas are experiencing the worst drought in South Africa’s history and gearing up for what’s being called Day Zero – the point when water in the main reservoir falls to 13.5% of its capacity. This apocalyptic day is currently forecast as April 16 and pipes to 75% of the city’s homes will be cut off.

The drought is mainly affecting parts of the Western Cape – where new water restrictions mean residents are being asked to limit their water usage to 50 litres a day (we use an average of 150 litres in the UK). Nearby regions like the Cape Overberg and the Garden Route are less impacted.

 

To read more about the drought in Cape Town on XPOSE.IE, click here.

Cape Town Water Crisis

Cape Town Water Crisis

Residents in Cape Town are bracing for ‘Day Zero’, with the city’s water supply dangerously close to running dry.

Dam levels in South Africa’s Western Cape province fell to just 24.5% this week and it’s expected taps will be turned off in April, leaving residents to pick up their water from one of the 200-odd collection points.

To read and listen to more, about the current water crisis in Cape Town, from 3AW693 News Talk, click here.

Will “Day Zero” Happen in the US?

Vista, CA - Cape Town, South Africa is approaching Day Zero.

Cape Town Water Crisis

Day Zero is when there will be no water left for its four million citizens. All taps in homes and businesses will be turned off .

Why? 

The city has essentially run out of water as a result of an unrelenting three-year drought, considered the worst in more than a century.

Unless a rainfall event happens soon or some system is developed to bring water to the city, Day Zero could be declared as early as March of this year.

Cape Town South Africa

Already, city officials are preparing for a public health disaster and social unrest. 

However, even though Cape Town residents are well-aware of their dire situation, some citizens continue to use water foolishly, for instance washing their cars.

When this happens and police are called in, these people are fined, some arrested, and their buckets and sponges are confiscated as if they were illegal drugs.

Residents are allowed to use only 13 gallons of water per person, per day.  In the U.S., we use on average 66 gallons of water per person, per day.

Many believe climate change is behind this.  Countries near the North and South poles are feeling the impacts of climate change more than other parts of the world.

“Cape Town already has very strong environmental policies in place,” says Klaus Reichardt, CEO, and founder of Waterless CO manufacturers of waterless urinal systems. “They are also ahead of much of the world when it comes to effective water management.”

Will Day Zero happen in the US?

In fact, we almost did reach Day Zero when Northern California nearly ran out of water in the late 1970s.  And in the late 2000s, Atlanta only had about a three-month supply of water left, also due to a severe drought.

To prevent Day Zero from occurring here, Reichardt says, “We need to take steps now to improve water management, rebuild water infrastructure, and install more devices that use little or no water.”

Finding the Real Restroom Odor Culprits

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Let’s face it. For the past hundred years or so we have grown accustomed to the idea that urinals, and their immediate surroundings, produce odors. Facility managers and maintenance crews have battled this issue for years.

In well-maintained buildings and restrooms, the areas around urinals, especially the floor in front of the urinal as well as walls and dividers, have been given special and regular cleaning attention, all in a focused effort to reduce odors.  However, this has not always proven successful, and the malodors persist.

And today with increased water costs and the need to reduce water consumption, we are dealing with a new situation that will likely also impact restroom odors, related explicitly to urinals.  With traditional flushing urinals, the water released by the urinal dilutes the urine in the bowl.  This helps eliminate odors.

But when water efficiency and water conservation efforts are put in place, and the water used per flush is reduced, the concentration of urine in the bowl increases along with the potential for odors.

Because no-water urinals use, as the name implies, no water whatsoever, many people initially believe that a urinal without water will produce odors.  If there are odors in a restroom where no-water urinals are installed, the first assumption tends to be it “must be those urinals.” But as shown above, other locations around a urinal are most often the culprit.

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Where waterless urinals differ from flushed units is that instead of using water to carry urine out of the bowl, leaving wet surfaces, non-water urinals have a cartridge insert in which floats a sealing liquid. Once the urine flows into this cartridge, as long as the sealing liquid in the cartridge is present, there cannot be any odors.  This also allows for the urinal to stay dry.  Bacteria, which typically are what produces odors in a urinal, cannot grow because there is no moisture.  As a result, no bacteria growth, no malodors.

This leads us to another benefit of waterless urinals as well. For the maintenance and custodial crew, a waterless urinal tends to be easier to clean than a traditional, flush urinal.  This is because water and water residue inside the urinal bowl and around the rims are dry, so no residue develops.

While we will likely continue to have restroom odor problems, even in the best of situations, at least we know to look beyond the urinals, especially the no-water urinal.  In many cases, the real odor causing culprits have nothing to do with the urinal at all.

Australia finally ready for waterless urinals?

With growing urban populations, building design is definitely looking to the future. Smart buildings, incorporating tomorrow’s technology, are soaring up with heights that maximise net lettable areas and increase numbers of occupants.

In these buildings, as well as existing facilities, there is an enormous amount of pressure on facilities plant and teams. From the perspective of the facility manager, there is a significant number of cost saving opportunities; progressively, fixtures and fittings within facilities provide an opportunity for managers to fully maximise their budget in investments, while keeping a firm track on the bottom line.

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However, managers are required to ensure the correct plant and equipment is specified, to ensure it provides energy and water efficiency, offers savings and enhances performance of its operating life. Facilities are built to last the test of time, in some cases around 50 to 70 years; however, the overall lifespan of building services plant can be considerably shorter. If your facility still has existing (1990 or earlier) plumbing fixtures, it would be recommended to investigate retrofitting them with the latest technology. From an initial cash outlay for any improvements, the overall payback period would be significantly rapid, based on associated water usage charges.

To read more from this article by Paul Angus with Facility Management Online, click here.

Defining Water Efficiency

The problem with those terms is that they typically referred to restricted use, a period when water users were being asked to cut back on consumption.  This most commonly happens during a drought, for instance.

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However, the issue of reducing water consumption has become much more severe over the past two decades. The United Nations has been evaluating water patterns around the world for years, and in their second UN World Water Development Report, which came out in 2017, they reported that two-thirds of the global population will live in areas of water stress by 2025… just seven years from now.

This latest report made it evident that we must now do more than just “conserve” water as if we were dealing with a temporary drought.  “Water stress” is an ongoing situation and occurs when the demand for water exceeds the amount of water available for both the short- and long-term. 

This can be the result of population growth, failing water infrastructure that is not being replaced or updated, climate change, or a combination of all of these.

But what we need to know is that it means a short-term drought is no longer the problem.  Long-term water shortages are now the problem.  And merely taking steps to conserve water just won’t have the water saving impact we need. Now we need water efficiency and water efficiency differs from water conservation in several fundamental ways.

First of all, water efficiency does not focus on how much water is used or not used, for that matter, but concentrates instead on water waste. To measure water efficiency, we measure how much water is required for a particular purpose and then compare that with how much water is currently used for that purpose.

Here’s an example:

•    Currently, one water-using urinal uses about 30,000 gallons of water per year.

•    We now have waterless urinal technologies that have eliminated the need to use any water in urinals at all.

•    This makes a flush urinal a very inefficient use of water and the alternative, a waterless urinal, which have been around for more than twenty-five years, a very efficient use of water.

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We can see water efficiency at work when we examine other restroom fixtures as well.  Whereas a toilet may have used two to three gallons of water per flush in the 1980s, a toilet today may use less than 1.25 gallons of water per flush.  This makes today's toilets far more water efficient than its predecessors.

So, if two-thirds of the world’s population will be dealing with water stress in less than ten years, does that mean the UN and governments around the world will need to take steps now to avert very serious water shortages around the globe?

The answer is yes and no.

Many parts of the world in which water stress is becoming a major concern are in fast-growing, less developed areas that have very poor or non-existent water infrastructure.  In such areas, the UN and governments around the world will likely be needed to step in.

But, a great deal of this problem will be addressed by private industry. There are several new technologies, from waterless urinals mentioned earlier to seawater desalination,  computer-controlled “smart” irrigation systems, and wastewater processing, which allows wastewater to be treated and reused.  Many of these have already been introduced and become much more cost efficient than a few years back.

This does not mean we will not have some difficult years ahead in many parts of the country. But with these technologies, there is a good chance there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

What Would Your City Do If They Only Had 113 Days Left Of Water

In March of 2017, Cape Town, South Africa was in an intensely crave situation when it came to water.  The city of nearly 4 million people had only 113 days left of drinking water. 

But it gets worse. 

In a relatively short period, they were down to just 103 days left of water and then only 87 days left of water. By August 2017, there were only 61 days of water left.

It’s clear something had to be done and done very soon. City administrators had tried pleading with people and businesses to reduce water consumption with only marginal success.  So as the situation grew worse, they decided to take a totally different approach. 

What they did is turn to billboards. 

They posted electronic billboards and signs on the major roadways around Cape Town, letting everyone know on a daily basis how much drinking water was left in the reservoirs.

It had a compelling impact. It empowered people to find ways to reduce consumption on their own. Then, using social media and traditional media, people eagerly started sharing their ideas and what they had learned on ways to save water. So everyone started learning from everyone else.

Among the ideas that took hold were the following:

•    Taking 5-minute showers (and using a timer to prove it)

•    Limiting tooth brushing to once or twice today with little or no water

•    Flushing toilets no more than five times per day per family (hmm; are you sure about this?)

•    Installing waterless urinals ((Link to this blog sent you in November: Breaking News: Waterless Loos for South Africa)

•    Limit handwashing to once or twice per day (again, hmm??)

•    No landscape irrigation of any kind

•    No sipping of tap water; only drink bottled water imported into the country

Some people even suggested eliminating laundry.  They purchased only ready-to-wear/ready-to-toss clothing.  Fortunately, Cape Town has a mild climate year round so it’s possible they could get away with this.

But here is what also surfaced.

Cape Town residents started realizing they are not the only ones having water problems. In fact, it’s becoming a problem around the world.

According to the United Nations, 95 percent of the countries around the world – including South Africa – have less drinkable water today in reservoirs than they did just twenty years ago.  So this told Cape Town residents that what they are experiencing is not temporary… this is the way things are going to be.

Those electronic billboards accomplished more than city administrators ever thought possible.  Its paid off.  Water consumption has dropped considerably.

Reducing water consumption is now on everyone’s mind just about every day.  They empowered people to take action on their own – and they did.

For more information on ways to reduce water consumption, visit www.waterless.com