Aspen Pharmacare's Cape Town-based subsidiary, Fine Chemicals Corporation, is so concerned about risks posed by the region's drought that it is investing in new infrastructure to enable it to run independently of the municipal water supply.
Fine Chemicals makes active pharmaceutical ingredients at its Epping manufacturing plant, which it exports to 42 countries. It is the only narcotics active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer in Africa, making products such as pain-killer ingredients codeine phosphate and morphine sulphate.
A forced shutdown would thus have a knock-on effect on Aspen's pharmaceutical manufacturing operations.
Cape Town is in the grip of the worst drought in a century. The municipality has imposed increasingly stringent water restrictions over the past two years in an effort to curb consumption and has warned residents and businesses that the city could run out of tap water by about April 21 if demand is not cut further.
"We are taking this very seriously," said Fine Chemicals GM Andre van der Walt. "We have cut our water consumption by 54% since November 2016. We have sunk a borehole and bought a water treatment plant, which is likely to be installed by April," he said.
Fine Chemicals's total investment to date on mitigating the risk to the business posed by the drought was R5m, most of which had been earmarked for water treatment, he said. The company intended to continue using borehole water once the drought broke, he said.
Once Fine Chemicals had established its own water supply, it would gauge how much it could provide to staff in the event that the city reaches Day Zero and turns off the water supply to taps. If that day arrives, Cape Town's residents will be limited to 25l of water per person per day, distributed at 200 designated collection points.