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Stores face up to #WaterCrisis

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How Western Cape retailers and shopping centres are preparing for the day the taps are turned off.

As the Mother City approaches the possible Day Zero and looks to be the world’s first major city to run out of water, retailers and shopping centres are rethinking their strategies to ensure survival.

The biggest aspects of business to be affected by the crisis are building safety, food preparation and ablutions.

The South African Council of Shopping Centres (SACSC) says all major shopping centres are protected by sprinklers, so the reduction in water pressure results in inadequate pressure for sprinklers to operate.

Restaurants and supermarkets need water to trade, and water supply interruptions will not only affect their businesses but also have health risks as necessary cleaning cannot be done. If toilets can’t be flushed this poses a health hazard to businesses, staff, tenants and customers.

At the V&A Waterfront the precinct must continue to operate at an acceptable level, says Stephan Le Roux, director of Growthpoint Properties.

“Not only does the precinct have the highest concentration of hotels and restaurants but it is the showcase of Cape Town. Over and above the extensive water-saving initiatives already deployed, the V&A will construct its own dedicated desalination plant. This will not be in time for the current projected D-day, but it will ensure future water security.”

Over the years, Growthpoint has implemented water-saving initiatives across its portfolio that include rainwater harvesting, waterless urinals, replacing water-thirsty plants with indigenous plants and hard landscaping, and abandoning irrigation all together – even from boreholes, Le Roux says.

Camilla Lor, marketing executive for Canal Walk, says Hyprop Investments Limited is committed to enforcing water restrictions, policy and regulations.

It has instituted stringent measures at all its shopping centres in the affected areas. Lor says these measures include:

  • Reducing demand through ongoing monitoring and awareness campaigns.
  • Restricting urinal flush water.
  • Reducing flushing times on toilets where possible.
  • Putting aerators on taps.
  • Auto-closing taps.
  • Irrigating with grey water only and reducing times.
  • Using grey water to sanitise plant rooms and waste yards in line with health codes.
  • Encouraging the prompt reporting of water usage transgressions and leaks.
  • Constant monitoring of the consumptive and pressure data.

At Tyger Valley Centre, Nozipho Khumalo, national marketing manager for Mowana Properties, says it has been working on initiatives to ensure businesses can continue if the city reaches Day Zero.

“We have been working closely with our largest consumers of water within the centre, which are air-conditioning, tenant usage, and ablutions.

“Water-saving initiatives include:

  • Reducing irrigation of gardens.
  • Sinking a third borehole.
  • Electronically monitoring and controlling consumption levels.
  • Supplying borehole water to selected ablutions.
  • Managing air-conditioning efficiencies.

Retailers, too, have stepped up as Day Zero approaches. Andrew Millson, Food Lover’s Market’s group head of sustainability, says it has been preparing for this crisis.

“We set up a water emergency group, consisting of various department heads and senior managers, in October 2017. This was primarily aimed at reduction of water use. However as the drought shifted, more emphasis has been placed on Day Zero itself.”

Some initiatives implemented at the stores in Cape Town include:

  • Installing water tanks for rainwater harvesting and filtration at stores, pack houses and distribution centres.
  • Collecting daily water readings.
  • Sourcing water from sustainable sources to fill tanks should Day Zero arrive.

Commenting on efforts at Spar, Ross Bannatyne, business development manager for the Western Cape and Namibia, says the company is unique because it is both a wholesale and retail operation.

“Our distribution centre has introduced various detailed water plans and measures to significantly reduce our consumption. We have been involved at a retail level by engaging, advising, guiding and supporting our retailers and store owners.”

Kirsten Hewitt from Woolworths says Day Zero will affect operations in the Western Cape, possibly affectin staff availability, product availability and store operations. 

“We have installed water tanks at Western Cape stores, distribution centres and our head officeto ensure uninterrupted water supply in the event of Day Zero. We are investigating alternative water source options.”

Hewitt says Woolworths’ first priority is their staff.

“All our staff will be provided with drinking water while at work and with water for ablutions. We also aim to provide each of our employees in the Western Cape with water to take home to their families every day.”

Among the work done by Woolworths to save water is:

  • Tapping into an underground water supply at head office.
  • Installing water pulse meters in 90% of South African stores to accurately monitor water usage.
  • Harvesting rainwater and reusing water at distribution centres across the country.
  • Reducing water waste and water pollution through the company’s Farming for the Future Initiative.

The measure taken by retailers and shopping centres provides an indication of what just a few have implemented to deal with the current water situation in Cape Town, says Amanda Stops, chief executive of the SACSC.

“One can see this is a priority for the shopping centre industry, a situation that has been taken very seriously. The industry is committed to collaborating with all stakeholders and finding solutions ito continue to provide safe, comfortable shopping environments.”

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