Cape Town water in danger of running dry

In 10 years Cape Town’s population has rocketed from 2,9m to 3,7m and it will hit 4,4m in 2020. What is not growing is the city’s already precarious water supply.

Appeals to save water, and a ban on watering gardens between 10am and 4pm is making little difference

“Even in a year of normal rainfall our dams are being drawn down faster than they are filling,” says Jeremy Taylor, founder of water conservation specialist Water Rhapsody. Sharing his view, Peter Johnstone of the University of Cape Town’s Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSA G) warns: “Water supply is falling below demand.”

This, says Taylor, is evident in the level of Cape Town’s six dams, which have fallen despite a 17% increase in total capacity created by the new Berg River Dam in 2009.

The six dams, reports the City of Cape Town, stood at 57,4% of combined capacity on March 19, down from 74% of five dams four years earlier. Dam levels are falling by almost 2%/week as the Western Cape faces its second year of below-average winter rainfall.

“Until the end of May and even into June it appears that the Western Cape will get very little rain,” says Johnstone. The CSAG’s forecast indicates that in March, April and May, rainfall will be 50%-80% of average, while June will see 80%-100% of average.

“Forecasts are tricky, but so far this year, our prediction of below-average rainfall has been accurate,” says Johnstone. He adds that the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research’s Western Cape rainfall forecast to June is in line with the CSAG’s. “If there is no rain by the end of March, the city must act swiftly to curb water use,” he says . Continue reading

Drinking water algal bloom poses no medical risk

The City of Cape Town’s Scientific Services Branch has isolated and identified an algal species called Melosira in the water of the Molteno Reservoir, and is assuring the public that it poses no medical risk to public health.

Melosira falls into the class Bacillariophyceae which are diatoms. In drinking water can give the water a grassy or fishy odour

Melosira are commonly found in drinking water reservoirs worldwide. The Melosira species belongs to the family of algae called Bacillariophyceae and is a diatom that forms long filaments. They are known for clogging filters in water systems.

The mechanism of the sudden and unexpected bloom of this species in the reservoir is being carefully examined to determine the causal factors so that appropriate corrective and preventative action can be taken.

Molteno Reservoir is a balancing reservoir situated above the city in Oranjezicht and is supplied by a blend of water from the Theewaterskloof, Wemmershoek, Steenbras and Voëlvlei Dams. The algae have not been detected in the incoming water supply. The water level in the reservoir rises at night when the demand in the city area is low and falls during the day while the peak demands prevail. The reservoir is cleaned annually during low demand periods in winter. Continue reading

Major water risk

One big drought in the Vaal River catchment area over the next eight years could jeopardise the region’s agricultural and industrial output, senior Eskom and Sasol managers have warned.

Eskom uses 330 million cubic metres of water a year to keep its power stations running

Speaking at the end of the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, they said the period from now until 2020, when Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) starts delivering water to the Vaal, was one of “major risk”.

While a drought would not necessarily pose a threat to the two corporations’ ability to generate power and manufacture fuel – both Eskom and Sasol are deemed “strategic water users” and unlikely to have their supply curtailed – the same would not apply to others.

Particularly vulnerable would be large industrial water users, agriculture and municipalities located in and around the country’s economic heartland, Gauteng.

Eskom’s general manager for water and environmental operations, Nandha Govender, told Sapa a drought would see the region “pushing the boundaries” of available water supply.

“The capacity of the Vaal system is a major risk. We see the crucial period being between now and 2020, when Phase II of the LHWP starts delivering water.

“The risk lies with large industrial water users, agriculture and the municipalities… It’s a situation we don’t want to get into.”

Govender also said although 2020 was the date set by government for Phase II to start delivering more water to the region, large projects of this nature often missed such targets, and the first water might only start flowing from Lesotho in 2021, or 2022. Continue reading

Water, waste and electricity to dominate programme

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

With water, and electricity being the most vital ‘ingredients’ in ones life, waste still stands out as a killer source.

Johannesburg landfills are filling up rapidly

The City of Joburg (CoJ) has implemented the 2040 Growth and Development Strategy outreach programme which is taking place this week. Water, waste and electricity are the key topics expected to dominate the conversations during the programme.

Conversations around these will be held through seminars and round table discussions involving everyone from residents and businesses to the government, civil society organisations, labour and academics.

“Formal and informal debates will take place with the aim of finding solutions to safeguard our precious resources for future generations,” said Gugu Mathibela of the City of Johannesburg.

An abundance of coal has kept electricity prices very low and has attracted a number of energy intensive industries. City Power and Eskom recently experienced protests related to power cuts, prepaid meters and the increase in electricity prices. These incidents give electricity first preference at the discussions.

Johannesburg’s resource intensity is also defined by the volume of waste it generates. The city is gradually running out of landfill space. Waste dumping in communities has become a serious health concern. Continue reading

Sustainable water supply to cost billions

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

Government plans to spend over R14.2 billion over the next three years vamping up dams and water distributions systems to ensure the country maintains a sustainable water-supply, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said.

Clanwilliam Dam will receive a R2.2 billion upgrade

Molewa singled out several mega infrastructure projects, in reply to a parliamentary question raised in the National Assembly on whether the department had identified any urgent projects as part of the government’s R846bn infrastructure upgrade plan over the next three years.

So far the department has spent R5.9bn of the R29.2bn budgeted for several projects, ranging from water services projects to mega infrastructure projects, she said.

The projected expenditure on water and waste water infrastructure projects is expected to rise from R2.7bn in 2010/11 to R13.6bn in 2013/14.

“The spending focus over the medium term (MTEF 2011/12 to 2013/14) will be on bulk raw water resource infrastructure to meet sustainable demand for South Africa,” said Molewa, pointing out that the details are outlined in Vote 38 in the National Treasury’s Estimates of National Expenditure for 2011.

The mega infrastructure projects include R16bn for the Olifants River Water Resource Development Project in Limpopo – which includes over R3bn to be spent on the De Hoop Dam and a further R13.1bn on distribution systems.

So far over R2.5bn has been spent on the project – the bulk (over R2.1bn) on revamping the De Hoop Dam. A further R2.8bn will be spent on the project over the next three years. Continue reading