Premier Zille Announces Plans to Support Schools in the Event of Day Zero | Western Cape Government


Premier Zille Announces Plans to Support Schools in the Event of Day Zero

1 February 2018

The Western Cape Government is finalising plans to keep schools open in areas most affected by the Province's crippling drought.

Premier Helen Zille unveiled plans today (Wednesday, 31 January 2018) to principals of schools dependent on the Western Cape Water Supply System.

Most of the schools are in the Cape Metropolitan Area and surrounding towns. About 1000 principals from these schools gathered for the meeting at the Western Cape Sports School in Kuils River.

Premier Zille said: "Cape Town can still avoid Day Zero if all residents use less than 50 litres of water per person, per day. This must be the first priority.  However, the Western Cape Government must be ready to augment water supplies to schools, if consumption targets are not met and our dam levels reach 13.5% before the winter rains. At this point the City of Cape Town intends to turn off water to most areas in the metro, in order to manage and preserve the remaining supply. Our job is to make sure schools remain open and operational, with adequate alternative water supply to do so."

School survey

Officials of the Western Cape Education Department and the Department of Transport and Public Works have surveyed the needs of schools extensively over the past six months.


The focus of the investigation has been to ensure water security at schools, to ensure water for hygiene and fire security, and drinking water.

The overall objective is to ensure that schools remain open after Day Zero.

In the very worst case scenario, which we are doing all we can to avoid, areas dependent on the Western Cape Water Supply System may be without surface water until August.

Schools have mainly used water from the reticulation systems of municipalities.

Our main focus now will be on ensuring that schools have the additional facilities they need to source, store and use augmented water supplies, up to and beyond the anticipated Day Zero.

Detailed plans

Officials have developed plans based on overall needs and are now finalising the needs of individual schools.

The Departments investigated what schools already have in place to source and store augment water supplies; what schools still need; and timelines for further action.

Most of the planned interventions cover supplies of non-potable water to schools, for hygiene and fire security. Potable water from some boreholes and packaged water will cover drinking needs.

The plans include:

  • Water sources;
  • Water storage;
  • Water transport, as required;
  • Water reticulation at schools; and
  • Water management.

Water sources

The main water sources in the short term are: limited municipal water in certain; groundwater (from boreholes), recycled water; and sea water. Where water is not potable, drinking water will be delivered to the schools.


A total of 407 schools in the Province (27%) have existing boreholes. Of these, 308 (76%) were functioning at the time of the survey. Fifty-eight are producing potable water, and 349 are producing non-potable water.

Service providers are standing ready to drill a further 10 boreholes at strategic points to supply groups of school that have no or insufficient local source of water. They are also working to rehabilitate as many of the non-functioning boreholes and those that are in a poor condition to bring them back into service.

Recycled water

Thirty-one schools are currently drawing recycled water from the City's treated effluent water network, that covers many areas of the City.

Thirteen waste water treatment plants produce about 162 million litres of recycled water every day. The network covers about 222 kilometres of pipework under the City.

Schools can use this water for toilets, so long as they isolate the supply from other water supply systems. Officials will work with the City to map schools to the network, to enable them to draw recycled water for their ablution facilities as well as for fire security.

The City can also provide recycled water at stand pipes or directly from waste water treatment plants if they are unable to connect schools directly to the treated effluent water network.

Sea water

A senior City engineer has confirmed that schools can use sea water for ablution purposes where necessary as a short term solution.

The Western Cape Government will consider sea water in cases where schools cannot access borehole or recycled water for sewage purposes.

Longer term plans

Medium and longer term plans include accessing water from broader augmentation projects, including water from aquifers, planned desalination plants, and the City's plans to extend the recycled water network.

Water storage

Officials have established that 478 schools within the metro and Winelands and West Coast districts have at least water storage tanks. Most of these schools also do not have a borehole. They include 275 schools in metropolitan districts and 203 in the West Coast and Winelands districts.

The WCED has tasked the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) to install reticulation systems to connect all tanks as well as ground water supplies to the school facilities, and this work is well underway.

A key priority is to ensure that all schools dependent on the Western Cape Water Supply System have at least water storage facilities which are plumbed to the reticulation system of the school. In this way, water can at least be tankered to schools to ensure fire security and basic hygiene requirements.

Potable drinking water requirements would then be addressed through other means and channels.

Water storage can take many forms. They include plastic and metal tanks, water bladders, precast concrete tanks, steels tanks used in the wine and beverage industry, and swimming pools.

Smaller schools need capacity to store at least 10 000 litres a day for ablution facilities and cleaning. Larger schools need at least 20 000 litres.

Water transport

Officials have considered all options for conveying water.


The simplest solution is to connect to existing pipe networks to access both potable and non-potable water.

Officials will work with the City to map schools to pipelines carrying potable water to water collection points and key facilities such as hospitals.

Schools will be able to tap into the same supplies, if they are located close to the network. WCG and City officials will also map schools to the existing recycled water network.

Road transport

The WCG will engage service providers capable of transporting 10 000 to 20 000 litres of water a day to schools using a range of vehicle types, depending on requirements.

They will need to convey water from the source, including recycled water stand pipes, waste water treatment plants, and identified sites for collecting sea water. They will then have to carry this water to schools.


Reticulating water from containers of various kinds to ablution facilities will be a major cost item. These systems will include devices to isolate non-potable water from other water supplies.

Water management

Water management will continue to be a key focus. The WCED provided guidelines on water management to schools last year and again in January.

Many schools have done so, and many principals are providing excellent leadership on water saving in their schools and communities, for which we are extremely grateful.

The WCED has introduced various interventions to support water management, in collaboration with the DTPW and the private sector.

About 270 schools are now using smart metering, thanks to collaboration with the private sector. The WCED has also issued programmed spreadsheet to schools for monitoring water usage.

The WCED has funded water restrictors in 63 schools in high-risk municipalities so far, and in 99 metro schools with high water consumption.

Role of principals

Principals will continue to play a key role in public education on responsible water use.

It is worth noting that schools use about 2% of the City's water supplies. Schools can influence the use of many times this via our learners and parents in our schools.

Media Enquiries: 

Michael Mpofu
Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille
071 564 5427
021 483 4584