Cape Town starts taking its water with a pinch of salt

CAPE TOWN — Things are looking up in what is fast becoming regarded as the most water-wise city in the world – Cape Town. Nothing like a crisis to prompt innovation. The analogy of erecting a four-way traffic light after a fatal smash is unfair as the Mother City has had no known water-induced fatalities – as yet. Instead it has, through a benign propaganda campaign made Capetonians hyper-aware of the exact meaning of Day Zero (the day the taps are switched off and water collection points are set up), and thus dramatically reduced consumption. More recently, several multi-million-rand groundwater extraction and desalination projects have begun producing extra water, the latter the most recent cause for hope going forward. As the second major Winter cold front hit the Peninsula and Boland this week, pouring welcome overnight floods of water onto the parched earth, the first desalination plant went on stream. Don’t be fooled though, the heavens need to open and stay open for weeks on end to fill the 22%-full dams. Every extra drop of desalinated water counts – and will do so for a long time to come. – Chris Bateman

By John Viljoen

(Bloomberg) – The drought-hit South African city of Cape Town has received the first water from a series of small-scale desalination plants it’s building as authorities seek alternative supplies.

A desalination plant at Strandfontein on the False Bay coast southeast of the city centre produced 1.5 million litres – about 400,000 gallons – on May 15 and has supplied that volume to Cape Town’s water system every second day since, Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson told Eyewitness News.

File Photo: Residents queue to fill plastic water bottles at a natural water spring on the site of SABMiller Plc’s Newlands brewery in Cape Town, February 7, 2018. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

That volume is a fraction of Cape Town’s needs: residents used 525 million liters a day over the past week, down from 554 million liters the week before, the city said in figures posted on an online “water dashboard” Monday.

Dams supplying the city dropped to 21.1 percent of capacity as of Monday, from 21.4 percent a week earlier, the figures showed. Cape Town has asked residents to cut consumption to 450 million liters a day to prolong supplies during the worst drought on record, imposing strict curbs on usage.

A desalination plant in the city’s V&A Waterfront district should start producing 2 million litres a day next month, while one at Monwabisi, also on False Bay, is due to pump 7 million litres into the system daily in July, Neilson said. By the end of the year, water-augmentation projects should add 100 million litres a day to supplies, and 150 million litres a day by April, he said.