NEWS
23/01/2018 17:28 SAST | Updated 24/01/2018 08:59 SAST

How Are Commercial Water Bottlers Preparing For Water Crisis?

Will bottled water producers be able to keep up?

Getty Images/Moment Open

Commercial, bottled drinking water has become a major trend that has gained big-business momentum in South Africa in recent years.

However, as "Day Zero" approaches in Cape Town -- the day, hopefully still to be avoided, on which water will no longer flow from the city's taps -- many people, understandably, are considering stocking up on bottled water.

But whether commercial water bottlers will have enough water to bottle, remains an unanswered question.

In preparing for what seems to be a growing concern, Nestlé Pure Life has said that the company draws its water from a dolomite aquifer and is currently prioritising sustaining it.

"This is a natural aquifer and water levels replenish naturally. Water levels are monitored daily to ensure that we do not exceed our extraction limits."

Nestlé also chairs the Water Use Efficiencies and Leak Reduction working group of the Strategic Water Partners' Network, an industry and government forum, focusing on municipal nonrevenue water losses.

"We also work closely with communities where we operate and within our agricultural supply chain on various water-saving projects through the recently launched Nestlé Water Fund," the company said in a response to HuffPost.

Local brand Henties, founded in 1998, is best known for its fruit juice, but it also produces still water. Founder and CEO Hentie de Wet said that with city's taps soon to run dry, they are well equipped and would not be running out of water to bottle.

Hentie said that the company has now taken to sourcing its water from a mountain in a farm in Worcester, which added to their expenses, but is working in their favour – as they will be able to bottle and sell water regardless of the dire situation in the city.

READ: National Government Prepares To Extract Final 10 Percent Of Western Cape Water

"We have put up a huge water tank at the factory, and we get our water from the farm to fill it up. That has added to our expenses, because a truckload of water from the mountain costs almost R11,000, but at least we can still go on with production," he said.

Over the past few days, he added, the company has received massive number of orders from different companies, some of which have never ordered from them before. That made him realise how much of a need water has become in the Cape.

"The demand for our bottled water has now peaked high, and we are fortunate that we are in a position to supply water for customers," De Wet said.

Meanwhile, Peninsula Beverages (PenBev), which bottles the two well-known brands Valpré and Bonaqua under license from the Coca-Cola company, has also made contingency plans.

PenBev's communication manager Priscilla Urquhart told HuffPost that while they are aware of the looming crisis, they have identified alternative water sources outside Western Cape to ensure that their production continues.

"We have also prospected for borehole capacity on-site at our plant in Parow and have established a high-quality groundwater supply that has been tested and passed according to international standards, should it be required," Urquhart said.

The company is also working closely with Cape Town's water-demand management team.

"From time to time, the city sends a representative to our business, where our team undergoes water conservation training. We are also meeting all of the city's level-six commercial water restrictions."

Urquhart said that the company was using less water in its operations, too.

"Production-line lubrication jet sprays have been modified to only spray lube, and not water, while the conveyor belt is running. Production has been extended, so that water can be saved with fewer cleaning cycles. High-pressure hose units – that use far less water than a normal pressure hose – have been fitted with water regulator valves that allow one to easily switch off water flow when not needed."

As Day Zero approaches, there have been no specific details forthcoming on what exactly will happen in Western Cape. There have, however, been recent reports that Anheuser-Busch InBev (formerly South African breweries, or SAB) will also assist with the crisis, by distributing 12-million bottles of water across Cape Town, if the water shutdown occurs.