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.

Go out, get wet

The rain did eventually stop yesterday. 102mm later.

We went out as things were beginning to let up a little and walked by some roaring water. The camera came along, because it always does, and you never really know what you’re going to get with the weird light that follows a day full of cloud and gloom, together with a hint of golden hour hanging around.

Monochrome (or close to it) was certainly still the order of the day though. Whether it was the angry water in the canalised Liesbeek River:

Or the dangerously slippery footbridge going over it.

We came back damp, but happy.

It’s still raining

I mentioned that today was going to be damp, and so it has proved.

The kids’ school postponed their annual Spring Fair because the weather was forecast to be awful, and it’s a good job they did. It’s been raining for about 12 hours now, it’s still raining, and we’re already approaching an incredible 100mm. The pool is overcapacity, the gutters overflowing, the drains overwhelmed and the beagle is, well… overall… actually rather unimpressed. It even refused to go out for a wee this morning, wandering up to the window before turning back to me with a look that very clearly said:

“Nooit, may bru. Are you jas?”

The beagle has been learning facial colloquial Afrikaans for a while now.

After a slow start, the catchment areas for the city water supply are now catching up a bit. Dwarsberg is up to about 70mm for the day, including almost 20mm in the last hour alone. It’s a nice little pre-summer top-up for the dams.

I’m due to go out to a farm near Montagu on a job next week, and I’m hoping that they’ve managed to get a bit of rain out there as well. It’s been dry and that’s not good for farming. (Neither is it good for me, by the way: that dust gets everywhere. Everywhere.)

I’m fairly convinced that today has been the wettest day of the year by some distance (in my garden at least). But I’d like things to brighten up for the weekend*, and then can we get into a bit more of a summery vibe, please?

Everything is soggy – including the beagle.

 

* forecast is for more rain on Sunday

Danger

via my Dad, a link to this site.

The 25 Most Dangerous Cities In The World For Travelers

And yep, there’s Cape Town, in at number five, brushing shoulders (and soldiers?) with war zones across the Middle East and drug cartel hotspots in Central and South America. ¡Ay, caramba!

Heady company indeed.

One of the other major issues in Cape Town which isn’t mentioned above (although which is actually clearly visible in the shot) is the fact that the horizon slopes wildly from right to left here, and there’s a very real danger of falling off the side of the world. This is an concern of which the local residents are well aware – that’s why a lot of us drive 4x4s for the extra grip – and not one that affects any other city on the planet.

For the record, I did travel through the city alone and at night just yesterday, and I’m still here, but it’s clear that this was solely down to good luck, much like every other time I’ve done it.
Incidentally, the photo above, of Sea Point was clearly taken by a very tall person under safe, controlled conditions: in a group and during the day.

No-0ne is denying that crime is a problem in SA, although the statistics certainly don’t back up this alleged “spike” in the crime rate. You’ll miss out on an awful lot by avoiding Cape Town (although not so much by just avoiding it at night and alone), and I’m happy to report that both official numbers and anecdotal evidence suggests that very few people have taken notice of this silly list.

Long way from home

Spotted on the M3 going north through Constantia this morning:

That’s a Manx-registered Hyundai i30, for the uninitiated.

It’s only the second Manx-registered car I’ve seen in Cape Town during my 15-year sentence. Little bit disappointed with the lack of a GBM sticker, but otherwise, top marks for giving me a smile today.

Thanks.