Cape Town water crisis update

I briefly mentioned the Cape Town water crisis in February.  At the time there were a lot of stories in the international news about the possibility of Cape Town running out of water.  Things have since improved so I thought it was time for an update.

Today seemed like an appropriate time to revisit this topic because I stumbled across a blog, written in February which provided some nice details about Day zero.  Then later as part of our water saving plan I attached a new pipe to our drainpipe which diverts rainwater into the pool.  It is a flat plastic pipe which can be rolled up when not needed.  We had a thinner version but it was blown around easily and ended up full of holes.

A flexible plastic pipe attached to a drainpipe

Interestingly one of the towns I visited on my Karoo roadtrip (I will publish the final installment soon), Beaufort West, was one of the first towns whose dam ran dry.  We did not notice any problems while we were there.  It seems they now use water from boreholes and a sewerage purification plant.

The concept of Day Zero is useful to help people realise that the water crisis is serious and everyone needs to do their part although it was somewhat controversial.  Day 0 was calculated on the rate at which the dam levels were dropping and did not take into account any new water projects.  This meant that we got regular news to say day zero was pushed back.

Personally I think there was a point the government went too far with scary messages about Day 0.  News started leaking about half-formed plans for water collection sites. People started panic buying and stockpiling bottled water.  There were a few weekends where people queued for hours to buy water from the bottled water shops.  Till it emerged that most of these shops were selling filtered municipal water.

There were a few weeks where there was no bottled water on the supermarket shelves.  My mother has a few stories about arriving at the stores about the same time as the delivery trucks and managing to get a few 5 L bottles, as they were being unpacked.  I heard a story about one person who realised you could order bottled water online and ordered enough to fill their garage.  The trade in non-potable borehole water is thriving, with water delivery trucks a regular sight around Cape Town.

A truck pulling a trailer full of containers of non-potable water

Then the government went to the opposite extreme and announced that there would be no Day 0 in 2018.  Capetonians have done well with water saving and they have agreed reduced water supplies with the farmers.  The water crisis is not yet over as the tight restrictions remain.  It will take a few years of good rain to refill the dams but in the short term, hopefully the winter rains will be enough to last another summer.




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