Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

I would like to respond to a misguided comment made in the Business Day editorial published on March 12 (DA Needs to Find its Soul).

In this piece the writer makes an ill-informed remark: "One of the central planks of the DA message has been that like it or not, it is an effective, incorruptible administration. But that has been bruised by Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s disastrous handling of the Cape Town water crisis."

If there is any evidence of corruption in the management of the water crisis there is a duty on any person who has evidence in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to take such evidence to authorities immediately.

I have become used to being blamed for many things but one thing I cannot be blamed for is that it hasn’t rained. Climate change has resulted in Cape Town facing its worst drought in history due to three years of below annual average rainfall.

Cape Town finds itself in an unprecedented situation where finger-pointing and blame is the norm, but I believe we are finally passed that point and more Capetonians are realising that it is now time for action and solutions.

In responding to the impacts of climate change, under my leadership we developed a new plan under the "new normal" scenario where water scarcity is the new normal. This plan looked at reducing our reliance on rain water and tapping into more nonrainwater sources such as desalination, ground water and water reuse — all of this while continuing to drive down demand as the quickest way to stretch our water supplies.

We received advice from specialists in this field from across the world who all agreed that our best option in terms of lower costs and greater yields of water was to invest more in aquifer drilling, and so we mobilised as many drills as possible to get to work and bring additional water online. We also reduced the number of desalination projects on expert advice.

This is the plan that is still being implemented and is showing results.

Prior to 2015 when Cape Town experienced its first dry winter, the City of Cape Town had for 15 years implemented a proactive water demand management and conservation programme. This project won an international C40 Cities award at COP21 in Paris.

The programme focused on addressing water wastage through an aggressive leak detection and repair programme, and more than 1,000 residents were trained and employed as community plumbers. This has resulted in our water lost through leaks sitting at around 14% while the national average is well above 30%.

What many people now know yet fail to accept is that the Department of Water and Sanitation is responsible for building new water schemes and ensuring that all users do their part. Simply put, it is the national department’s Constitutional mandate to build dams and to ensure that the agriculture sector and urban users adhere to the relevant usage and savings levels.

Our efforts were well documented over the course of 2017, when I demonstrated to the public each week how we were doing our utmost and working beyond our Constitutional mandate to bring emergency supplies online but most importantly to reduce demand so that we stretched our water supplies.

The key to this plan to avoid acute water shortages was always to reduce consumption as we can only save water while there is still water to be saved.

Under my leadership we reduced water consumption in Cape Town from 1.1-billion litres per day before January 2016 to about 500-million litres per day currently.

"Disastrous" would mean that Cape Town would have run out of water by now. As the writer and all Capetonians can now see, we have pushed Day Zero back due to reducing our collective consumption. This is the call to action, which I amplified since 2016, and we are finally seeing results.

I therefore take great exception to my work being labelled as "disastrous" or to being solely blamed. There are many people responsible for ensuring water supply and I, for one, have stayed away from finger-pointing or the blame game. I got to work and did what I could and can never be the only person to be seen as being responsible for managing a water crisis.

Patricia de Lille
Executive mayor, City of Cape Town.