Commercial property owners "utterly unprepared" and likely to find themselves in crisis if taps are shut off.
Many of Cape Town’s commercial property landlords are “utterly unprepared” for Day Zero, and when the reality eventually hits the city, they may find themselves in crisis.
Although some have been instituting water-saving methods in efforts to reduce their water usage and delay the dreaded eventuality, most have simply not done enough, says Sean Berowsky, head of broking at Broll Cape Town.
“Some landlords have introduced water-saving mechanisms by closing showers and harvesting and reusing water where possible, but sadly most have left it in the lap of the gods and/or their tenants to take the initiative.
“Most landlords are utterly unprepared for the looming Day Zero as none have ever had to deal with a crisis of this magnitude, and it has been compounded by a lack of clear direction from national and provincial government.”
Clear guidance from both these spheres of government that “clearly states” exactly what each type of commercial building has to have in place, would be “extremely helpful”, Berouwsky says. Currently there is only a guideline to reduce consumption. However, there are many other factors that need to be addressed.
“Apart from this, all landlords need to educate all their tenants about how to manage the urgent reduction in water usage in a manner which keeps the tenants safe, and they are able to operate their businesses during the crisis.”
Commercial properties and companies that rely on water, such as garden centres, hairdressers and car washes, have already felt the biggest impact so far. But come Day Zero, “nobody will be left unaffected”, says Berowsky.
“The major opportunity for all of is to become immediately compliant with maximum water usage in order to buy precious time to delay Day Zero.”
Property developments also need to keep water-saving methods in mind, says Neil Gopal, chief executive of the South African Property Owners Association.
“Commercial property owners have implemented significant water-saving projects and technologies in advance of this crisis. Given that water and electricity are a significant component of their overall operational costs, these cost-cutting and saving measures are always explored when designing new shopping centres and office parks.”
Spire Property Management recently shared the Water Saving Toolkit it has been rolling out for clients. Measures include:
- Turn off or limit garden irrigation, or replace landscaping with succulents and other water-wise plants and install synthetic lawn.
- Adjust the flush valves in toilets.
- Adjust the water flow duration and pressure in automated basin taps.
- Turn off all water features and fountains.
- Install aerators on the bathroom taps.
- Consider turning off the water to the hand basins and provide waterless hand sanitiser.
- Convert urinals to waterless ones.
- Place locks on all the external taps.
- When draining fire protection sprinklers, water must be redirected into tanks or inflatable storage then pumped back into the system afterwards or used in other applications.
- Use contractors who use harvested rainwater for window cleaning or other cleaning.
- Communications can be sent to all tenants informing them of mandatory water-saving measures that they must use while at work.
- Install pre-paid water meters for tenants that are high water users – such as a car washes, gyms, restaurants, hair salons and so on.
- Install rainwater harvesting tanks.
- Redirect the sump water from underground basements to be used in the buildings.
- Install grey water solutions to facilitate a reuse of all available grey water.
- Sink well points or boreholes at the property.
- Amendments can be made to air-conditioning and HVAC systems to harvest the water generated through these technologies.