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Without rain, Cape Town may run out of water by April

April seen as when city runs out of water.
A person stands in the pool to demonstrate the severely low water level at the Newlands municipal swimming pool in Cape Town. Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

 Cape Town, one of the world’s iconic tourist destinations, could run out of water by April as the city’s worst drought in a century risks forcing residents to join queues for emergency rations.

“Day Zero” – the date taps are due to run dry – has crept forward to April 22 as city authorities race to build desalination plants and drill underground boreholes.

Almost two million tourists flock to Cape Town every year to bathe on sandy white beaches, explore natural features like Table Mountain or to sip wine in dozens of nearby vineyards.

Travel and tourism accounted for an estimated 9% or R412 billion ($33 billion) of South Africa’s economic output last year, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

“At the current rate the city is likely to reach Day Zero on 22 April,” said councilor Xanthea Limberg, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water.

“There is a real risk that residents will have to queue.”

At a trial water collection site, similar to an estimated 200 the city may introduce, people queue between metal fences waiting to fill up containers from standpipes.

A maximum 25 litres of water will be provided per person, per day, officials said.

Limberg said the dire situation was being worsened by some people ignoring a push for residents and visitors to use no more than 87 litres of water per person per day.

Cape Town is home to many wealthy residents who have swimming pools and sprinkler systems, although the city does not want to play a “blame game” as lots of affluent residents are saving water, she said.

Businesses in the hospitality industry also say they are trying to help, limiting showers to two minutes and using water used for washing dishes and clothes to water gardens.

Authorities want to reduce the city’s consumption to 500 million litres a day – half the amount used two years ago.

“Everyone is taking as many steps and measures that they possibly can to try and make sure we don’t reach Day Zero,” said Gabrielle Bolton, spokeswoman for the five-star Belmond Mount Nelson hotel.

In a possible sign of things to come, security guards have been monitoring a steady flow of cars and people lining up at AB-Inbev’s Newlands brewery to get up to 25 litres of free water from a mountain stream on its property.

The popular Newlands public swimming pool across the road from the brewery has been closed due to water restrictions with still two months of the South African summer left to run.

City officials say dam levels dipped below 30% in the first week of the new year, with only about 19.7% of that water considered usable. Residents will have to queue for water when dams reach 13.5%.

“I am concerned we will run out of water and it is difficult,” said Susan Jones, a grandmother who regularly visits the Newlands spring taps.

“We are making do. We have to.” ($1 = 12.3427 rand) 

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I believe that they should start with the 25l a day limit now, rather than when it is too late.
With 200 water points and +- 4 million people living in cape town, that averages to 20000 people per water point, and so 500000l per point per day. How long would you think it takes to open, fill, close and move a 25l container? Maybe a minute if there is enough force from the tap. 20000 minutes is 333 hours, so to fit it into 24hours you would need 14 “taps” per water point filling for the whole 24 hours non stop.
That presents a number of logistical nightmares.
1. What is the capacity of a typical water truck, 50 – 10000l is my guess, so that is a minimum of 5 truck loads per point per day, so 1000 100000l water deliveries per day.
2. Access. At an event that caters for 20000 people, there has to be ample parking for people to get in and out, are there 200 locations like that around the city?
3. Do people at work bring their own water, how will toilets be flushed etc…
4. Carrying 100l (a family of 4) of water is heavy over long distances..

And many more…

We should all be praying that we don’t get there!

If they have no way of forcing the 87 litre limit per day, how are they going to enforce 25 litres without shutting down the supplies?

This crisis has not been managed and water points for a city of 3 million plus is unworkable as indicated above ie a logistic calamity. Desalination ships and plants are needed, the aquifers need to be accessed and a workable plan implemented first short term and then long term.

A big city without water will become a war zone!

We should rather be praying to God for rain.

I’d argue that CT is in an EMERGENCY situation given the drying dams.The CoCT should have set-up a crisis-management team, as of yesterday, to deal with enforcement, pushing contractors re drilling/desal 24/7, and hitting high water users with massive costs.Instead they’re stuffing around because they still don’t get what may happen if people have to queue for their babies, children, parents, grandparents etc, and unrest breaks out as a result. Cape Town may then possibly be declared an emergency province, ruled fully from Pretoria, until sufficient water is procured.CoCT WAKE UP!

Yes, this situation is worrying…even for us inland. Hope my province-of-birth gets rain early this winter 🙂

CoCT may’ve been sitting on this for too long, I fear. By the way, what happened to talk(?) of contracting Desalination Ships (…it exists..google it) a.k.a Floating Desalination Vessels. Hyflux from Singapore is merely one example that CoCT can contract to. Such vessel(s) could dock in the relative calm of False Bay, and pump water up into Steenbras Dam. It will need a new pipeline & a pumping station…but there’s no such plans(?) I assume it’s cast aside due to high cost…instead they’ll sink boreholes into the Cape aquifer. For how many years will the aquifer water-table last?.

Yes, Floating Desalination Vessels will be expensive, but once good rains arrive, the contract can cease and they sail off to the next customer.

I fear Noah will be able to complete his Ark long before CoCT…

This thing is going to get bad. Everyone is assuming that it’s going to rain in the nick of time and save everyone from a Mad Max type scenario, but we’re going to need MORE than the average rainfall the area used to get before the drought for THREE YEARS running to make up the shortfall. That seems highly unlikely.

This situation is clearly unprecedented and suggests we need an entire rethink of how water is used. Not just in CT but throughout the entire country. Individual swimming pools should be banned here on out. Those that have them should be made to fill them in. This country can no longer afford that luxury. Jojo tanks should be mandatory for the use in watering gardens, washing cars etc. A Jojo tank can even be rigged with filters to make the water suitable for drinking and cooking. Not a drop of rain should be wasted.

This emergency is the giant canary in the coal mine. There is no reason it can’t happen elsewhere in the country. It requires a tectonic shift in our thinking. Water needs to be considered more valuable than gold and needs treated as such from here on out.

We should rather be praying to God for rain.

End of comments.

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