What could happen if water is turned off
While the City of Cape Town has pushed back the dreaded Day Zero, the risk of the city’s taps running dry remains real, and if that happens, it will not be business as usual for the commercial sector.
A recent survey conducted by the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce revealed that 7% of businesses in Cape Town will have to close their doors, come Day Zero.
Even businesses that do not rely on water directly will be affected, as employees will have to spend time out of the office to collect water.
Outlining some of the disruptions that could occur, chief executive of distribution at PSG Insure Bertus Visser says businesses that use water to trade, such as hairdressers or car washes, will not be able to function, while those that make use of frozen goods that could spoil without ice, could lose stock.
“Generally, these policies do provide for losses arising from interruptions to, or interferences with, a business that are caused by total or partial failure of public water, gas or electricity supplies. However, drought is usually listed as an exclusion.”
Visser says a typical policy schedule will have the following wording:
“This section does not cover loss resulting from damage directly or indirectly caused by:
2. Pollution of water.
3. Shortage of fuel or water.
4. A fault on any part of the installation belonging to the premises.
5. The exercise of an authority empowered by law to supply water, gas.”
It is a “scary reality” that drought is considered uninsurable, so the best one can do is keep water use to a minimum and avoid as many risks as possible, he says. Some ways to do this are:
Put out fires before they start
Being savvy when it comes to fire risk in these dry conditions can go a long way, says Visser.
“The National Building Regulations on fire protection codes require you to keep maintained fire extinguishers, fire pumps or water tanks on business premises. It is also advisable to address any electrical issues or faults. Finally, firebreaks and clearing of vegetation can also assist in preventing fire spread, especially for agricultural industries.”
If businesses have sprinklers on site, it will be important to make sure they are turned off as they can spark if they are turned on and no water reaches them. This could result in a fire.
“Rather keep them off and make sure there are several regularly serviced fire extinguishers on site. But be sure to consult with your adviser or insurer before you disconnect them.”
Be Sasria-covered and savvy
SA Special Risks Insurance Association cover against riots will also be important as when a resource like water becomes precious, fights tend to break out, so it is best to be prepared.
Act consciously: advise your employees and be a good employee
“If the water supply is interrupted or turned off, open taps can cause flooding once the water supply is restored. This may seem like a problem that won’t occur easily but the bigger the company and the more bathrooms and employees, the more chance of a tap accidentally being left open – imagine the impact if it is over an entire weekend, while no one is there,” Visser says.
Employees should also make use of water-savvy products such as waterless hand sanitisers and insist on controlled flushing. These measures can help save an average of 2 to 3 litres per person on hand washing alone, not to mention the many litres per toilet flush.