Cape Town could face dire water shortages within 6 years

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 17 June 2011

Professor Jenny Day, director of the Freshwater Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, said much has to be done to ensure that the Mother City does not dry up.

The Table Mountain fossil aquifer has been there for millions of years. Extraction would permanently reduce the amount of water.

This could even include pumping water from under Table Mountain.

“The Table Mountain Series Aquifer stretches from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and up to the Cederberg. We think there is an awful lot of water but we don’t know what we can exploit without causing any damage. Or how much of it would be replaced by rainfall,” she said.

The city is currently investigating this option.

Day’s views have been backed up by the Department of Water Affairs which on Monday announced that the Western Cape could face dire water shortages within the next six years.

But these shortages will not bring the city to a grinding halt if Capetonians “use water more sparingly”. Continue reading

Cape Town looks towards desalination

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 14 June 2011

By: John Yeld

The City of Cape Town plans to call for tenders for a feasibility study on a large-scale seawater desalination plant, as the region runs increasingly close to using all of its available fresh water supply.

Water scarcity may require winter rainfall pumped from the Berg into Voelvlei Dam

The tender call, expected within a month, will be for a study on where such a desalination plant could be built and what capacity it should have.

The call coincides with a major effort to plug water leaks and theft that, in February last year, accounted for one quarter of all treated water in the city, and with a warning that few options remain for tapping existing surface water sources.

The city will also be looking at the large-scale re-use of water. This is the only potential major new water source at a cost lower than seawater desalination, which is very expensive because of the large amount of electricity required. This study is expected to kick off “within the next few months”.

These initiatives are among the water conservation and water demand management measures that form a major part of the strategy for providing water in the Western Cape region that is already using about 92 percent of all “safely” available water. “Safely” means with a high degree of certainty of availability, without water restrictions.

Depending on how successful these measures are and on how much the city grows, the remaining 8 percent of available water will be fully utilised anywhere between 2017 and 2019, according to projections by the Department of Water Affairs. Continue reading

Desalination plant payment on ice

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 07 April 2011

The consultants and civil engineers responsible for Plett’s non-functioning desalination plant should explain why it was not working, and possibly their payment should be withheld, Bitou mayor Lulama Mvimbi said last week.

Test intake wells are visible in the lagoon in front of the Beacon Island resort. Photo: Janine Oelofse

Asking who was to blame for the forced shutdown of the new R32-million plant less than three months after it was commissioned, Mvimbi said in the same way that council was questioned about services which clients were not satisfied with, Bitou should “also play hardball” with the contractors hired for the desalination project.

“They should sort the problems out” before they were paid, Mvimbi said. Addressing the Bitou mayoral committee, Mvimbi questioned the claim by town officials that the desalination plant was in “pilot project” phase.

“We can’t just say that,” he said, adding that the assertion suggested the R32-million had been wasted – R12-million of which had come from ratepayers and the rest from provincial government funding. Mvimbi said all the consultants and contractors would be called to a meeting with Bitou officials to explain themselves and chart a way forward.

Municipal officials earlier said the desalination plant was shut down on March 1 after the mouth of the Piesang River closed, drawing criticism from environmentalists who reminded Bitou that they had voiced their opposition to the municipality’s choice of location for the plant on the Piesang estuary. Continue reading

Mine levy to fund treatment of acid water

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 20 March 2011

The government is looking at introducing a tax on mines as a way to force them to pay for the drainage of acid mine water into the water system.

Acid mine drainage seepage above an old abandoned underground coal mine near Witbank. Picture by: Christy van der Merwe

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Johannesburg on Saturday that even though the government had provided R400 million for clearing and cleaning derelict mines, it was not going to “keep quiet and sit back”.

“Other mines will become derelict into the future. That is when the drainage starts,” she said.

“We have decided that even though we are funding this project, we will follow up with users and operators and using Section 19 and 20 of the Water Act to try and retrieve money for them,” she said.

“We are investigating a possible environmental levy of some sort or a tax, which is money we will be able to use to clean up where a problem of this nature occurs.”

Molewa said the department was working closely with mining houses to recycle mine water.

“We are investigating whether we can use this water as grey water for industry or potable water for drinking,” she said, adding that the department was exploring a range of ways to improve the efficiency of South Africa’s water usage. Continue reading

Impending water restrictions for Durban

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 March 2011

Durban could face water restrictions as early as next year. This is the warming from eThekwini municipality water department head Neil Macleod, who said last week that recent good rains are the only reason restrictions have been avoided so far this year.

Rainwater Harvesting is a sustainable way of augmenting municipal supply

“The total rainfall for last year, for this region, was the fourth lowest on record. The dams at the beginning of this year were on average 20 percent lower than at the start of 2010. We typically have a series of wetter years followed by a series of dryer years. The wet years have continued for an extended period and have protected us for the statistical possibility of restrictions.

“If we’d had normal rainfall over the past three years, we would almost certainly be in the middle of water restrictions right now,” he said.

And the situation is likely to get worse. “For 2011, I do not see restrictions being introduced. But 2012 could be a different story. We are nearing the end of the summer rains and if we have a dry winter comparable to last year, then water restrictions in 2012 are almost inevitable,” he said.

Macleod’s comments come just two weeks after Professor Mike Muller, former Department of Water Affairs director-general and now commissioner of the government’s National Planning Commission, warned that South Africa will face a water crisis within the next decade.

He singled out the eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) and Joburg metros as the municipalities likely to first feel the shortages.

Muller told the Sunday Tribune yesterday that it is vital for cities to plan to ensure they avoided water crises. Continue reading