1001 water-wise ways: All quiet on the water front

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Has anyone else noticed the palpable silence on the subject of Cape Town water crisis in the media? No one seems to be talking about it. Or rather, my contacts tell me no one official is ALLOWED to talk about it. Cape Town's perilous teeter on the edge of Watergeddon has become a political hot potato -- but also a potential good news story. National, provincial and local government all want to claim the credit if and when there is good news; none of them, after the initial festival of blame, want to touch the hot potato. As far as I can make out, there now seems to be a consensus that informing citizens that Day Zero would occur on a specific day was a terrible mistake: next time round, they'll break the news differently, and there will be different contingency plans.

I also think citizens are exhausted. Our taps haven't run dry yet, we've become accustomed to bucket baths, winter with its promise of rain is nearly here. We're hunkering down, watching the skies and hoarding our buckets.

Or are we really? Behind the scenes, there is frantic activity: exactly like those swans seen gliding serenely down rivers, there is a great deal of invisible paddling taking place. The City is taking advantage of this period of waiting, the lull before the storm that will break if not enough rainstorms break, to waterproof Cape Town and its institutions as extensively and swiftly as humanly possible. Because even if we have excellent rains, in six short months, it will be summer again. And another summer with empty dams will break us, unless we have made alternative plans.

Meanwhile, Capetonians are a canny lot. I thought perhaps we'd all gone to sleep, but last week I visited my favourite drinking-water spring in Newlands, and was pleased to see that while it was as busy as ever, things were extremely orderly. Perhaps people have NOT tossed away their water containers without a care, lulled into a false sense of security -- and every drop hauled from a spring is a drop spared from our dams.

Since I was last there, a permanent police caravan has been installed, and no one is allowed past it with more than one 25-litre container. This means that folk bustle up and down the road with their containers, joining the back of the queue each time. Here I met Lien, who was using a skateboard to zoot her containers to and from the spring. Now that is clever.

 Lien with her water-transporting skateboard. Top marks for improvisation. Photo taken and posted with permission; she gave me her full name and permission to use her first name in this blog.

Lien with her water-transporting skateboard. Top marks for improvisation. Photo taken and posted with permission; she gave me her full name and permission to use her first name in this blog.

I also see that ropes have been installed to create orderly queues, that the 25-litre collection principle is now up on posters, and (possibly nicest of all), there are instructions on how to donate to the Maitland Cottage Hospital (part of Red Cross Children's Hospital) -- which is just across the road.

 Visitors to the spring are encouraged, if they can, to make donations to this public children's hospital, the only specialist orthopaedic paediatric hospital in Africa.

Visitors to the spring are encouraged, if they can, to make donations to this public children's hospital, the only specialist orthopaedic paediatric hospital in Africa.

It all made me hopeful; even if Day Zero comes, and we have to queue for water, there will be systems in place -- and we will make them work.

Helen Moffett