The severe drought in the province that includes Cape Town, South Africa has worsened to the point where “Day Zero”—when Cape Town, a city of 4 million, will shut off taps to homes and businesses and begin water rationing—is now projected for mid-April. One club that posted it was going to use non-potable water to save its turf drew heavy criticism. Others that use effluent water are seeing those supplies dwindle because of restrictions on household use that have been imposed.
A website post from a golf club manager in Stellenbosch, South Africa that said the club’s grass was being kept alive with non-potable water it had secured from a nearby clay tile quarry drew an outcry, News 24 of Cape Town, South Africa reported, amid growing tensions and sensitivities as the region approaches “Day Zero,” when water taps to homes and businesses will be forced to be shut off as main water supplies run nearly completely dry.
Stellenbosch is about 50 kilometers east of Cape Town in Western Cape province, all of which is threatened by a dramatic crisis as reservoirs formed by dams to create water supplies have seen their levels drop to unprecedentedly dangerous levels. City officials in Cape Town, with a population of 4 million, are now projecting that “Day Zero,” when they will be forced to shut off water taps to homes and businesses, will now come in mid-April.
After that measure, which is now considered to be almost inevitable, is invoked, citizens would then have to stand in lines protected by armed guards to receive drinking-water rations. The city of Cape Town has already begun to prepare to set up 200 emergency water stations outside groceries and other gathering spots, National Geographic reported, that would be designed to serve almost 20,000 residents each.
Cape Town officials are also making plans to store emergency water at military installations, National Geographic reported, and have decreed that using taps to fill pools, water gardens, or wash cars is now illegal. And during the first week of February, authorities stepped up water-theft patrols at natural springs where fights broke out, according to local press reports. They’re also cracking down on unscrupulous traders who have driven up the price of bottled water.
For months, National Geographic reported, citizens of Cape Town and throughout Western Cape province have been urged to consume less water, but more than half of residents ignored those voluntary restrictions. So earlier in January, the city requested even steeper cuts, asking residents to consume just 50 liters per day—less than one-sixth of what the average American uses. If consumption doesn’t drop steeply and quickly, city officials warned as February began, everyone will be forced into Day Zero, where all will have to live on far less—about 25 liters a day, less than typically used in four minutes of showering.
Amid such growing tensions, News 24 reported, Ryno Bernardo, manager of Devonvale Golf Club outside Stellenbosch, drew immediate criticism after posting on the club’s website under the headline “Breaking News!” that Devonvale had secured 100 megaliters of water to use on its golf course during the drought.
“We have managed to secure a 100 million litre water supply from a property down the road from Devonvale,” Bernardo posted. “We have rights to the water as long as the property owner has enough for his own needs (their usage is very small).
“The installation of the 1.8km pipeline is well underway, with only 600 [metres] to go before we can start pumping,” Bernardo’s post added.
After the post was retweeted with comments such as, “hey as long as their grass is green who cares [that] 30 [thousand] litres are being driven down to help the poor while 100 million litres in our midst are pissed out on grass,” News 24 contacted Bernardo, who explained that the water would be piped in from a clay tile quarry, and added that it was of such poor quality, even the kikuyu grass on the course would not survive unless it was treated first.
“It is not potable water. You can’t do anything with it,” Bernardo said. “Even for grass it is very harmful.”
Bernardo told News 24 that he intended to apply for a permit to use the water, but had not yet done so.
“It is sort of in the process, but it takes quite a while,” he said. “We need the water now.”
Bernardo told News 24 that he posted the news about the water to keep sought-after tourist bookings and keep Devondale’s business viable until rain comes.
The drought conditions had made it difficult for older golfers to walk in uneven patches at the course, he added, and taking a swing on the sand was harder than on grass.
As it is, News 24 noted, golfers now do not have to worry about fishing their balls out of Devonvale’s ponds, because they have dried up to the extent that all the fish were removed last Friday.
The Atlantic Beach Country Club near Melkbosstrand on South Africa’s West Coast, where the country’s President, Jacob Zuma, traditionally plays a few holes the day after his State of the Nation Address, already has an effluent water-treatment plant on site, News 24 reported.
Atlantic Beach’s owner, Allen Usher, said the club’s course is irrigated with treated effluent from over 800 houses on the country club’s estate and houses in Melkbosstrand, about 5,000 in total.
However, Usher added, conservation by those residents as restrictions have been imposed has diminished supply of even the effluent water to the point where Atlantic Beach now only irrigates the greens and the tees, leaving the fairways to cope on their own.
“We’re struggling because we’re only getting half the amount we normally get,” Usher said. The club has also made changes such as fitting aerated taps and using paper towels instead of napkins, News 24 reported.
The Steenberg Estate and Golf Club in Tokai uses a pipeline it built over 9 kilometers from the Cape Flats Waste Water works to the Steenberg Estate to irrigate its golf course and environs, estate manager John Sterrenberg told News 24.
Maintained by the estate and club, the effluent is treated at the estate and used to irrigate the golf course and environs, flower beds and grass verges.
“Estate management is extremely aware of its duty to prevent wastage and as such the irrigation system is timed and controlled by an advanced computer system, which strictly regulates the time, volume, dispersion and spread of water to the various tee boxes, greens and fairways,” Sterrenberg said.
The Steenberg club also made changes to its public facilities, such as asking members to bring their own towels, and uses a borehole to augment the municipal supply to the clubhouse, News 24 reported.
Henk Smith, President of the Western Province Golf Union, told News 24 tbat none of the golf courses in the province have been using municipal drinking water and added that municipalities were being “very strict” with them. While people may think clubs were using water from the Theewaterskloof Dam, which is Cape Town’s main source of supply, that is not the case, Smith said.
Smith reported that while the grass at his own club in Bellville was becoming “yellow and slightly clumpy,” the property was carrying on as best it could to keep the business going and staff paid.
One golf-related casualty of the drought was the moving of the Sunshine Tour’s Cape Town Open from the Royal Cape Golf Club to the King David Mowbray Golf Club, because of how the grass was struggling at the King David club, News 24 reported.