South African Breweries (SAB) will be helping Capetonians struggling through the drought crisis by shipping out 12-million quarts of a drink not usually associated with the company.
SAB general manager John Stenslund confirmed that 9-million litres of water – bottled in 12-million quarts – would be distributed to assist with the severe drought.
SAB management met with Premier Helen Zille on Monday to discuss the plan ahead of Day Zero, the day that most of the city's taps are expected to be switched off, which is currently predicted to be April 21.
"People must not now think SAB will save us from Day Zero. The only thing that will save us is if everyone cuts their water consumption for all purposes to 50 litres per person per day," she said.
"What their generous offer will help us with, for example, is getting water to institutions – such as old age homes – that desperately need it when the taps go off."
Capetonians were still using 600-million litres of water per day, and this needed to be decreased to 450-million litres to avoid Day Zero.
ACCESS TO SPRING WATER
"Now you can understand the huge scale of this. What SAB is offering us sounds like an enormous amount of litres . . . but it must be seen in context."
Stenslund said the company had thought of how to make its water source – the Newlands spring – more accessible to people around the city.
"The amount we would produce is very small in terms of what is needed. At the rate Day Zero is approaching we really all need to do something," he said.
The spring sees over 4 000 people collecting water every week, and SAB has also reduced its own water consumption for operations.
It further planned to look into how it could use its distribution network to allow access to its water donation.
"We are currently analysing the way we would do it and our process. We are very good at producing beer but we don't have any experience in terms of bottling or canning it. We currently have teams working long hours to make sure we can live up to our promise and commitment to the city and to the government."
'WATER IS NOT A COMMODITY, IT'S A RIGHT'
SAB was also in talks with the City about supplying water it did not use in terms of its water use licence.
"The way that we've reduced our usage means we have spare capacity. So how can we ensure access to the city for that? We are in discussions around how we can make that work – quickly.
"We're in a business that produces beer and if Day Zero comes, we can't be producing and not providing to the community as well, from a water point of view. Water is not a commodity, it's a right."
Zille, in a column on the Daily Maverick website, said the SAB network would transport water to retailers in areas of greatest need over several weeks.
Earlier on Monday, Zille attended a meeting at the provincial disaster management headquarters to discuss preparation for, and management of, Day Zero and its aftermath.
Issues surrounding water security; economic security, safety and security; as well as humanitarianism – taking into consideration the difficulties of the elderly and disabled collecting water at the water points – were under discussion during the closed meeting.
"Something of this magnitude hasn't happened to any city in the world. And it's unthinkable to contemplate managing… over four-million people without accessible water. So we know what it takes.
"South Africans seem to be particularly bad at changing their behaviour. But now our back is really against the wall. And there is no injection, or antiretroviral, or anything you can take. There either is [water] or there isn't."