Finally Rain

Since my last post providing an update on the water crisis we have had loads of rain.  There was a decent rainfall on Monday night with a noticeable increase in the volume of our tank.  Then last night the rain came down hard.  There is a news report showing that in the 24 h till 8 am this morning the local area got between 18 – 30 mm of rain.

It started raining about 3:30 this morning.  The rain fell so hard it woke me up and I struggled to get back to sleep.  One of our neighbors had to pump water out of his garage.  My sister’s husband reported that their dog’s bowls had floated down their garden.  You will have to look closely but you can see tidemarks on the wall.

Cape Town rains

While all this rain is a welcome relief and was badly needed such a heavy downpour does have it’s downside.  One problem is that where plant life has struggled due to a lack of water there would have been soil erosion.  An example of this is a patch of grass near where I live.  Naturally watering grass was one of the first casualties when water restrictions were introduced and a green field has steadily turned brown.  So a lot of soil has been washed into the road.

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The biggest irony is that we have moved from one disaster to another.  According to a local news website 2000 people and 578 structures have been affected.  Sadly many of these will be the poorest communities, those people living in informal structures, in an area known as the Cape flats.  Many of these communities do not have running water and have to collect water from a communal tap. Some members of this community were scathing towards the wealthier communities getting stressed out by day zero.  Day zero is their reality 365 days a year.

Having said that improved rainfall should help the farmers and that is also good news for many poor people.  Low rainfall means, poor harvests, increased food prices and fewer jobs.

Overall the rain is good news for South Africa and I think heavy rain is required in order for the water to find its way to the dams.  It is unfortunate that it means misery for some.

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.

 

 

 

Local News Update

Today is that day many singles dread.  Particularly frustrating for me this year as I have been making an effort to meet someone.  Ironically a few people I have met through online dating, wishing me ‘Happy Valentines’.  In the spirit of this year’s Anti-Valentines it seemed appropriate to write about some of the other things happening around me.

Cape Town and South Africa seem to have been in the international news a lot recently.  Plenty of stories about President Jacob Zuma reflecting badly on the country as a whole.  There is also the embarrassing possibility of Cape Town running out of water.  More recently things are starting to look more positive.

The water crisis is far from over but in the last few weeks Day 0 has been pushed back a month.  Cape Town relies primarily on large storage dams for water.  We have a winter rainfall so the water is stored for the hot, dry summers.  Three dry winters and a growing population mean that the levels in these dams is very low.  Day 0 is the point at which most taps in Cape Town are turned off and people will have to queue for water.

Over the last year the council has steadily been increasing the water restrictions.  When you start to think about it, it is surprising how much water we waste.  Water tanks have been appearing all over the place, and are used primarily to collect rainwater.  Many grey water recycling systems have been installed.  It seems that water saving measures are widely discussed at the school gates with many people taking pride in how much they are doing.  2 min stop start showers are now normal.  This involves wetting yourself, turning the water off, then washing with soap, then a quick rinse with the water to get the soap off.  It is encouraging to know these measures are working.  It looks like we will make it to the winter rain.  Fingers crossed there is plenty of it.

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Today’s big story was the arrest of one of the Gupta brothers.  President Zuma has been implicated in a series of scandals involving corruption and state capture.  In one case it seems that money intended for poor black farmers was funneled to the Gupta’s.  It seems that even one of Jacob Zuma’s sons will be arrested for his part.  The people involved in these scandals have been described collectively as the Zuptas.

This time last year things were looking bad for South Africa’s relatively new and fragile democracy with various government officials including Zuma openly defying the laws and the constitution.  The opposition parties have been working hard to make sure they behave.  Finally at the end of last year the ANC voted for Cyril Ramaphosa, who campaigned on the basis of anti-corruption, as their new leader.  I am not naive enough to think that this is the end of our troubles but it does seem to suggest that our fragile democracy is still working.

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