In the middle of her Cape Town property, Marlize Jacobs worries. The historic drought in the second largest city in South Africa has put its vineyards to the test and is now threatening to jeopardize all its activity.
"Our tonnage retreats for the fourth year in a row and the shortage of wine threatens ", laments the viticulturist, installed for more than ten years on the usually green hillsides of Vergenoegd.
" The costs related to water have almost doubled, "she sighs," we do not use that the water strictly necessary to keep the vines alive, not a drop more. "
Cape Town and its region have suffered for three years from an exceptional drought that deprived them of most of their rains. winter.
The threat of the famous "Zero Day" or "without tap water" and the prospect of a rationing of populations, agitated for months by the authorities, was rejected for this year at the price of a drastic reduction of private consumption.
Resides They use more than two-thirds (70%) of the water consumed by the city, but the economy has not been spared by the necessary restrictions on consumption.
In January, the rating agency Moody's warned that it would degrade without hesitation the agglomeration at the disgraceful level of investment "speculative" if the water crisis was prolonged.
Most optimistic, the authorities of the Western Cape Province conceded that "the persistent drought has degraded (its) growth forecasts relative to those of the rest of the country and now threatens the level of employment. "
– Rising prices –
Agriculture and especially viticulture, which is the prestige of the Captonian hinterland and employs tens of thousands of employees, are subjected to severe test.
The decline of its activities because of drying Among other factors, eresse contributed to plunge South Africa into a "technical" recession in early 2017. Since then, the sector has been on the rise and the region has breathed a sigh of relief.
In 2016, the region only 20% of the wine and 16% of the fruit juice consumed in other African countries. The vineyards also drain a large contingent of foreign visitors to the region, the flow of which is vital: the tourism sector provides 300,000 jobs to the region.
Another sector affected, that of public works. Some shipyards could only be completed through distant water deliveries. The others were purely and simply suspended.
The Rabie group now uses wastewater to manufacture its cement on the Cape shipyards, at the cost of a logistical extra cost. "It increases the price of construction," sums up his boss Miguel Rodrigues.
In 2016 already, 94% of local businesses had listed lack of water as a risk for their activities.
Unlike individuals, However, as far as possible, professionals have been spared the daily consumption limits strongly suggested by the authorities.
– Strategies –
"The point is to avoid creating another crisis in the crisis", pleads the elected official in charge of security at the municipality, JP Smith, "the public works sector is already very fragile, if you cut off the water you are clearly endangering employment."
To convince consumers To reduce their use of water, the municipality even used university experts in behavioral sciences to develop the best strategy of persuasion or encouragement.
With success, apparently, since she ap to reduce personal consumption by 60% in three years
The industrialists themselves have developed alternative strategies to save water.
Engineer at the Koeberg nuclear power plant, 30 km north of Cape Town, Christopher Smith says he has developed a seawater desalination plant for use in reactor cooling systems.
"We had no choice, we had to take the bull by the horns, "he says.
AB InBev's local beer plant executive declined to comment on the drought's impact on its operations, but other players in the sector have all confided that a "Day zero" would be catastrophic.
"If there is no more water, the entire catering industry will die", summarizes without frills Raphael Clistini, a South African 28 years old who opens bars all over the world
In his new bar Cape docks, it serves a gin produced in a distillery in the city that may soon be forced to bring its water from Johannesburg, 1400 km away.
"It will still drive up prices," sighs he already.