The City of Cape Town’s Gamble on Rain Pays Off

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  • Cape Town’s average dam level is up to 53.3% this week off a low of 18% in May 2018.
  • This is roughly double the volume recorded this time last year.
  • The good rains have offered respite for the city planners and provide valuable time to integrate alternative water sources into the current mix.
  • Water restrictions for residents expected to be lifted once dams are 85% full.

Climate change events are bi-polar in nature. The City of Cape Town has faced extreme periods of drought and more recent incidents of flooding. The good rains have brought respite and valuable time for City planners to now implement permanent water augmentation solutions.

The massive scare of Day Zero – the point at which the City’s taps would run dry has been the catalyst for planners to switch from a reactive strategy to a proactive one. Cape Town’s deputy mayor Ian Nielson explains  ‘’now that we have navigated our way through the immediate drought crisis, it is necessary that we review our water supply strategy and augmentation plans to ensure that what was devised in a time of crisis is appropriate for longer-term sustainability and resilience,”

Neilson added that the City was working with international organisations like the Stockholm International Water Institute, the World Bank, and the urban resilience movement 100 Resilient Cities to ensure that a revised augmentation programme was the best response to the reality of Cape Town’s water situation.

All current alternative water source initiatives like groundwater extraction and desalination plants have been implemented on a temporary basis by the City through third-party subcontractors. The City only pays for the water and not the plants. These temporary solutions will not be pursued long term as the price for the water comes at a premium.

So all eyes now point to large City or national government-owned desalination plants to ensure a lasting solution. The City has stressed that the current water restriction of 50 liters of water per person per day will remain in force until the dam levels reach more than 85% as a collective average of the dams in the Western Cape.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal


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