Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water and waste services, Xanthea Limberg, responds to my criticism of her city’s planning by saying that "in our context, it is not practical to ring-fence billions of rand for the possibility of a drought that might not come to pass" (No shortage of planning, April 24). But that is exactly what the city should be doing. It is easy to supply enough water when there are good rains. The job of the water managers — and their political heads — is to ensure water security in times of drought.

Limberg is right that "it is impractical to fast-track supply schemes of sufficient scale quickly enough to compensate for a drought". That is why it is necessary to plan and build sufficient infrastructure ahead of the drought.

Of course, water restrictions are an option. But restrictions affect the economy and can damage infrastructure due to pressure surges when pipes are refilled. Often, these effects will cost the city more than the cost of building the right infrastructure at the right time. By now, Limberg and her council should have learnt that restrictions are hard to enforce and relying on them has created that "inherent insecurity" for its citizens. Their real planning failure was to believe their own propaganda — that reductions in consumption in 2013 and 2014 were the result of water-conservation campaigns. They happened to coincide with two years of good rainfall. Over the following two dry years, consumption returned to previous levels, hence the current shortages.

If the DA wants to be taken seriously as a future national government, it must show that its administrations can learn from their mistakes, rather than try to excuse them.

Mike MullerWits School of Governance, Johannesburg

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