Steel

A busy day considering we’re supposed to be chilling at the cottage. Transporting 8m of galvanised steel tubing along 5km of dirt road without damaging the new car was a particular triumph, but the gale force wind meant that we couldn’t really do a lot with it once we got it here.

That wind has been dominating everything today. We got sandblasted on the beach, and lighting the braai later will probably require assistance from some fictional deity or other.

I’d love to share the forecast with you all, but the internet has gone all sketchy, meaning that my Windguru app is wholly unobtainable.

There might even be problems uploading this, although if you’re reading it, it would seem that all has gone well in that regard.

My god, that was close

I’ve had a weirdly busy day. Weird because I visited a retirement home (don’t you dare!) and went to a supermarket in the midst of renovations.

No big wow, I know, but then the drive down to Agulhas, a few beers, a braai…

… and I almost forgot to blog.

My god, that was close.

Fortunately, I didn’t forget, and that’s the important thing. But now, those beers and that braai are calling once again.

Let’s meet here again tomorrow, ‘k?

Hidden message?

I’ve been up and about for five hours today, during which time, I have made packed lunches, fed the beagle, done a decent 6.5km run, popped into the lab, picked up some keys from a block of apartments and answered four (yes, four) sales calls from three different companies, each offering me a funeral plan. Two of these companies were full on insurance companies, and this is part of their irritating bread and butter.

The other one was my cellphone provider.

I do recognise that times are hard and that businesses are having to branch out a bit, but Vodacom are notoriously unreliable on coverage and damn expensive on price, so why on earth would I use them to pay for my funeral?

But that’s the secondary issue here.

I don’t get offered funeral plans often. To get offered four in a single morning does suggest that someone knows something. Bit worrying.
Maybe they’d seen me after my run this morning. It is like a near death experience every time.

But then of course, for money to be made on funeral plans, it does rather rely on the insured individual living for as long as possible – or better still, not dying at all.

So maybe someone knows something else.

Glass half full, and all that.

The water crisis is not over for everyone

More rain today in Cape Town. To be honest, we could all do with some summer now, but any complaints are tempered by the still very fresh memories of the recent drought.

Our dams are now up to 84.5% full, an incredible recovery from the time of that visit to Theewaterskloof just 20 months ago. Amazingly, Theewaterskloof itself cracked the 75% milestone this week. With all this good news, it would be reasonable to think that we were all in the clear now. And Cape Town pretty much is: for the moment at least.

It’s a different story just up the road though. I drove out to Montagu this week, where there hasn’t been any significant rainfall in 4 years. Much of the local economy is reliant on farming, and farming is reliant on water.

There is no water.

It’s hardly rocket surgery to work out implications of this situation. If farms can’t farm, there’s no money to spend locally, there’s no money to employ workers. Thus GDP drops, unemployment rises, poverty rises and brings with it increased drug/alcohol use, and with that, increased crime and health problems.

I was lucky enough to visit the Poortjieskloof Dam on the (currently misnamed) Grootrivier. Poortjieskloof supplies several of the farms in the area and has a capacity of 9.4million m³. That’s about one third the size of the Steenbras Upper dam that you drive over at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass. i.e. it’s big.

It’s also almost completely empty.

The water that you can see there is little more than a metre deep, well below even the bottom of three outlet points on the dam wall. When full, it should be 33m deep, but even the lowest of the depth markers (4m) on the bank is way above the water level. It’s a shocking sight, and a reminder that we live in an urban-orientated, insular news bubble. While we are celebrating our deliverance from the infamous Day Zero, this dam – literally just 100km from Theewaterskloof – is on its last legs, along with the local community which depends so heavily upon it.

While I do understand that the climate is changing, I’m also aware that that is what climates do, and the amount of hype in the media leaves me cold. I’ve seen enough good science being manipulated to sell papers and get website clicks to just willingly believe everything I read. However, that said, if one takes this as an example of the implications of prolonged drought and its effect on a small community, extrapolation to a city the size of Cape Town is frankly terrifying. Whether or not you think that there is any anthropogenic effect on the climate is almost immaterial. The fact is that we’re clearly unable to deal with any robust change in our environment.

However, it’s not all bad news in this particular case. While I was visiting one of the local farms, their 170m deep borehole was completed and yielded its first water, which will hopefully at least allow them to save their trees in preparation for next year’s crop. This year has been a write off. Add the cost of drilling and pumping from a borehole onto a season with literally no income and you can see the desperate state that things are in.

I’m looking forward to going back and seeing healthier farms, a healthier local economy and happier faces next year. As for Poortjieskloof – that will require literally years and years of above average rainfall to get back to any significant level. And that seems very unlikely to happen at this stage.

Roadblock

I’ve been out working in the Klein Karoo today. It’s been a long one: 13 hours, six on the road, seven in the blazing sun, so you’re only getting a QP. Deal with it.

This guy stopped me on my way to the farm this morning. I had to pull over, jump out and say hello.

I’m now back in the Big City, tired and slightly redder than when I set off. It was a long day, but it was a good day.