Day Zero is another week closer.
The City of Cape Town has just moved the day that none of us are adequately prepared for from April 29 to April 22, and that’s not their only bad news.
Those Capetonians who can actually be bothered to save water (we see you bathers, and we are giving you the stink eye) have put quite a dent in the City’s coffers – an estimated R1,6 billion, in fact.
That’s because of revenue lost due to lower sales of water, and with a number of water projects due to start soon the City has to make up that money somewhere.
With dam levels at an average of 29% of capacity, drilling equipment will start arriving this week to extract water from aquifers on the Cape Flats and the Table Mountain aquifers, in addition to extraction already underway in Atlantis on the West Coast.
This followed surveys of the areas last year which confirmed availability of water there.
The Cape Flats aquifer is expected to produce an extra 80 million litres per day, the Table Mountain aquifer, 40 million litres per day, and Atlantis, about 30 million litres per day.
To help pay for the project, the City has proposed a “drought charge”, but this still has to be approved by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba.
As you can imagine, that proposal has not gone down too well. It’s estimated that more than 460 000 households will be affected by the charge, and 45 000 people have already responded to the City’s request for comment.
If you want info on how much extra money you’ll be coughing up each month, check HERE.
Fancy a reminder of just how nasty Day Zero will be? That’s “the day when the city’s taps run dry and an emergency plan, which includes residents queuing at water points under army and police supervision, kicks in”.
So you’re angry and you want to blame someone – where to start? Well, if you ask Dr Rolfe Eberhard on Business Live, that’s a tricky one.
He says there are a number of factors to consider so let’s run though those:
Cape Town is experiencing a drought that is more severe than any previously recorded. There have been three consecutive years of low rainfall. Rainfall in 2016 and 2017 were each individually the lowest rainfall recorded in the last 100 years.
It should be noted that there are many people throwing shade at that stat in the comments section. One example:
THIS would also seem to discredit the 100 year stat.
The drought currently being experienced by Cape Town is variously estimated to be between a one in two hundred years and a one in one thousand years event and is therefore much more severe than what was provided for in the planning.
There is an appropriate debate to be had about planning and the extent to which climate change has been factored in. This is important but will not help us get through the current drought.
The idea of building temporary large-scale desalination capacity is a costly diversion — it is not possible to build substantial desalination capacity in time to make a material difference to dam levels this summer. Temporary desalination costs more than seven times as much as treated water from Cape Town’s dams and at least three times as much as efficiently procured permanent desalination.
International expert opinion is unequivocal — building temporary desalination at any scale is not an appropriate solution to the drought crisis being experienced in Cape Town as it will not provide substantial water in time to make a difference this summer and the cost would be exorbitant.
New water supplies
While developing additional supplies of water will not make a material difference to dam levels during this summer, these are very important to reduce risk during next summer and beyond. Cape Town is implementing plans to develop ground water resources and to build permanent wastewater reuse and desalination capacity at an appropriate scale cost-effectively.
…a catastrophic failure of Cape Town’s water system would wipe out property values. Three major adjustments are needed: the immediate introduction of more punitive tariffs for consumption above 50 litres a person a day (necessary to achieve the 450-million litres a day target), an increase in the property tax to support the transition to a more resilient city (and to avoid the catastrophe), and a restructuring of the tariff next financial year to make it more resilient to drought shocks and to support sustainability.
If I were the president of the ANC, I would request national government to make a contribution to support this transition and to lesson the impact on the poor.
Get on that, Cyril.
Anyone else going to pick up a few five litre water bottles when popping past the shops later?
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