Mother City’s dry­ing out

Var­i­ous wa­ter-sav­ing in­ter­ven­tions im­plore house­holds and busi­nesses to com­ply or risk a dire short­age of the pre­cious re­source

The New Age (Gauteng) - - GAUTENG NEWS - NADINE FORD-KRITZINGER nadinef@the­newage.co.za

THE past year has seen Cape Town ex­pe­ri­ence its worst drought in recorded his­tory, which finds the city work­ing around the clock with many in­ter­ven­tions to avoid a sit­u­a­tion where com­mu­ni­ties would be with­out wa­ter.

The sit­u­a­tion sees a num­ber of con­tribut­ing fac­tors as the causes of Cape Town’s wa­ter short­age. These in­clude cli­mate changes due to global warm­ing, pop­u­la­tion growth and drought. The city of Cape Town has been work­ing around the clock in­stalling var­i­ous in­ter­ven­tions to make more wa­ter avail­able. These in­clude wa­ter re­stric­tions that have been tight­ened a few times through­out the year.

A Univer­sity of Cape Town lec­turer, Kevin Win­ter, said rain­fall on the city’s catch­ment ar­eas would come later, drop­ping more er­rat­i­cally and of­ten miss­ing the catch­ments al­to­gether.

“We have to ac­knowl­edge that car­bon diox­ide is find­ing its way into the at­mos­phere and has reached a new high.

“This is a global sys­tem, so the big­ger sys­tems are be­gin­ning to have an im­pact on us. There is no doubt that pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture are re­lated.

“So dis­turb the tem­per­a­ture, you dis­turb the pres­sure and you start to see dif­fer­ent sys­tems op­er­at­ing.”

The en­vi­ron­men­tal and ge­o­graph­i­cal sci­ences specialist said the weather vari­abil­ity sug­gested two things.

“One is that the drought in­ter­val, the pe­riod be­tween less than av­er­age rain­fall years, is clos­ing and that’s mas­sively prob­lem­atic if you can’t get a cou­ple of good years to bring your­self back up.

“The other is that rain­fall is com­ing later. We don’t get a sweep of cold fronts that are here for two or three days and drop the an­nual rain­fall in nice, neat lit­tle batches. That’s no longer true. What this means is that we shouldn’t see the wa­ter cri­sis as a tem­po­rary phe­nom­e­non that will re­solve in a year or two. It’s a long-term prob­lem.

“We will need sub­stan­tial gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion to make Cape Town’s wa­ter sup­ply sus­tain­able.” An­other con­tribut­ing fac­tor that adds to the drought con­di­tion is that the pop­u­la­tion is grow­ing faster than wa­ter stor­age. Since 1995 the city’s pop­u­la­tion has grown 55%, from about 2.4 mil­lion to an ex­pected 4.3 mil­lion in 2018. Over the same pe­riod dam stor­age has in­creased by only 15%.

“The Berg River Dam, which be­gan stor­ing wa­ter in 2007, has been Cape Town’s only sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tion to wa­ter stor­age in­fra­struc­ture since 1995.

“Its 130 000 me­gal­itre ca­pac­ity is over 14% of the 898 000 me­gal­itres that can be held in Cape Town’s large dams. Had it not been for good wa­ter con­sump­tion man­age­ment by the city, the cri­sis could have hit much ear­lier.”

Some record­ings of dam lev­els at the end of Novem­ber in­cluded Thee­wa­ter­skloof, which was at 23% from 47% this time last year, Voëlvlei stands at 27% from last year’s 64%, Clan­william is at 33% ca­pac­ity from a level of 89% and Brand­vlei has 30% from 52%.

In­ter­ven­tions by the city sees it on track with its first set of aug­men­ta­tion plans which con­sists of the first seven projects. These projects in­clude the Mon­wabisi, Strand­fontein, the V&A Water­front and Cape Town Har­bour de­sali­na­tion plants, the At­lantis and Cape Flats aquifer projects and the Zand­vliet wa­ter re­cy­cling project that will col­lec­tively pro­duce an ad­di­tional 196 mil­lion litres per day be­tween Fe­bru­ary and July next year.

The city has 12 projects in the ad­vanced stages of plan­ning that are ready to pro­ceed if re­quired. It re­cently in­creased yields from the At­lantis aquifer by an ad­di­tional 5 mil­lion litres of wa­ter per day and ear­lier this month it started pump­ing the first drink­ing wa­ter, an ad­di­tional 2 mil­lion litres from the springs and the Molteno Reser­voir in Oran­jezicht. Other in­ter­ven­tions also saw the city host­ing Think Wa­ter ex­hi­bi­tions at malls across Cape Town to show­case to res­i­dents and busi­nesses the var­i­ous wa­ter-sav­ing tech­nolo­gies and plumb­ing fit­tings avail­able to make homes and busi­nesses wa­ter-wise and re­duce con­sump­tion while ask­ing busi­nesses, taxi as­so­ci­a­tions and car washes to be key play­ers in this wa­ter sav­ing cam­paign by im­ple­ment­ing wa­ter ef­fi­cient prac­tices in their busi­nesses and by us­ing wa­ter­less prod­ucts.

The mayor of Cape Town, Pa­tri­cia de Lille, also re­cently joined the city of Cape Town con­trac­tors to con­duct an aerial sur­vey of the Cape Flats Aquifer.

The sur­vey, which is part of the city’s on­go­ing work to en­sure that suf­fi­cient new wa­ter sources are brought on board as quickly as pos­si­ble to ad­dress the drought, will con­firm the prime lo­ca­tions for where the high­est vol­ume of wa­ter can be ab­stracted from the aquifers. An­other ac­tion by the mayor saw her ac­com­pany wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion depart­ment of­fi­cials to see how the city was mak­ing treated waste­water avail­able to busi­nesses de­pen­dent on wa­ter.

The city is, how­ever, still cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for busi­nesses to thrive. Wa­ter re­stric­tions stand at 87 litres per per­son per day but New Year’s Day will see level 6 wa­ter re­stric­tions kick in. This means res­i­den­tial units con­sum­ing more than 10500 litres a month will be pri­ori­tised for en­force­ment. Res­i­dents should keep their wa­ter us­age to 87.5 litres a day, non­res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties are to re­duce con­sump­tion by 45% and agri­cul­tural users are to re­duce con­sump­tion by 60% while the use of bore­hole wa­ter for out­door pur­poses is dis­cour­aged in or­der to pre­serve ground­wa­ter re­sources.

The city of Cape Town has now pro­posed a drought levy for res­i­dents in prop­er­ties rang­ing from around R800000. This pro­posal has been re­jected by com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions and the pro­vin­cial ANC.

PIC­TURE: FACEBOOK

IN­TER­VEN­TIONS: The city of Cape Town will en­force level 6 wa­ter re­stric­tions from New Year’s Day.

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