Facing Day Zero, South African seafood companies scramble to cut water use

Published on
February 27, 2018

Seafood companies in South Africa have drastically cut their use of potable water in the face of a worsening crisis that has led to strict water rationing for residents.

Sea Harvest, one of the country’s largest producers and markets of premium seafood products, reduced its fresh water consumption by 35 percent between March 2016 and December 2017, in response to a severe drought that began in 2015 and has left the country's dams at 15 percent capacity.

According to various media sources, South Africa is expected to run out of water completely in a few months' time – a date designated as Day Zero.

Media reports show seafood companies implementing various strategies in response to the crisis, including drilling bore holes into aquifers and initiating steps to establish desalination plants.

In its press release, Sea Harvest said it had implemented several water-saving measures, including making use of seawater for its initial rinse of its seafood. It has also increased the use of rinse tubs instead of running water, installed nozzles on freshwater lines to reduce consumption, and upped inspections of its freshwater lines with the goal of identifying freshwater leaks at its facilities and repairing them quickly. The company is also engaged in ongoing efforts to increase employee awareness of water conservation, frequently holding staff competitions for water-saving initiatives.

Furthermore, the company is currently working to further reduce its water consumption by an additional 10 to 20 percent, Sea Harvest said in its release. However, the company said it remains dependent on municipal water to remain operational. It uses municipal water for “factory hygiene, primary and secondary fish processing, human consumption, washing bins and tubs, ice, and water supply to vessels.”

That could make things difficult as Cape Town stares down Day Zero. Water rationing in the city has already reached critical levels, with residents permitted to use 13 gallons of water per person per day.

Experts attribute the ongoing water crisis “to sharp population growth and a failure to plan alternative water sources to augment the reservoirs behind six dams, some of which are rapidly dwindling to arid sandy stretches,” due to the prolonged drought, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Reporting from the Caribbean

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