Down one

Latest news from the City of Cape Town water dashboard:

Here are a few takeaways from  this week’s numbers and the information provided therein.

We are still using too much water. And by “we”, I mean people who aren’t me or my family. But even so, even with those people who aren’t me and my family, Cape Town has cut its water use by almost 50% when compared with similar periods a few years back.
Can “we” do better? Well, “we” should be able to, but interestingly, “we” have been stuck at this sort of level for a while now. Could this be some sort of impasse, and if so, why is it happening and what can the City do to get past it? There are already plenty of measures in place, but are they actually having enough effect?

582 million litres x 7 days = 4,060 million litres, but actual volume stored in the dams dropped by 8,739 million litres. That discrepancy is mainly due to evaporation because of the hot weather and strong winds we’ve seen this week over the Winelands area. So, in the last 7 days, we’ve lost an additional 8 days at 582 million litres back up to the sky. And let’s face it – it’s going to be hot and windy a lot more over the summer.

The good news is that even with this continuing overuse and huge evaporation, the dam levels “only” dropped by 1%. Simple maths suggests that with 26% of usable water still available, and using/losing 1% a week, we can last another 26 weeks. I’ve been doing some (more) rudimentary calculations and I reckon that takes us to the middle of May. We might just make it. Or not. I actually have no idea.

Because historically, water usage goes up at this time of year into summer.
However, there is some good evidence that water restrictions will curb this increase:

Taking 2014/15 as an example of unrestricted use, and comparing it with last summer (when restrictions were in force), we can see that there has been a reduction of maybe 400 million litres a day. And yes, production (blue line) is still above where we need it to be (pink line), but that graph tells a good story, and with more draconian measures in place this year, will hopefully continue to do so. Addition of temporary small scale desalination plants and tapping into local aquifers will mitigate supply issues a little too.

It rained this morning, which ruined the kids’ sports day, but at least I got another 100 litres or so from my sausages. And I’m only concentrating on that latter fact, because we’re really not in any position to complain about any negative effects of precipitation in Cape Town right now.

Chin up. We might just survive this yet. Keep saving. Every little helps.

David’s Water Crisis Facts

Mythbusting. It’s a thing. Two middle-aged gentlemen in San Francisco famously made a living out of it. So step forward then David W. Olivier, who – right from the get go – is anxious for us to know that he:

does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

That article being this one, in which he rejects our reality and substitutes his own:

David has gone out on a bit of a limb here by using facts and relevant information to make his case. An approach that the Facebook hordes are unlikely to recognise. And if you read it through rather cynical eyes, it does appear as a bit of a City of Cape Town puff piece, but then you realise that maybe, just maybe, they have also been using facts and relevant information when informing us about the water crisis.

Wow.

David hits us with truth bombs about the much alleged lack of preparedness:

Climate trends over the past 40 years gave no indication of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration. In fact, dams were overflowing in winter 2014. The weather forecasts gave no indication that the 2015 drought would continue over another year. A study by the University of Cape Town came out a few weeks ago, saying that the odds of the drought carrying over again into 2017 were less than one in one thousand.

He then goes in for a combination attack detailing the myths of lack of enforcement and water being lost to leaks, before a killer blow on the “why didn’t we build a big desalination plant?” debate:

A desalination plant large enough to accommodate Cape Town’s needs (450 megalitres per day) would cost 15 billion rand to build and then millions more to maintain.
There is a chance that by the time such a plant is built, the drought would be over. The city would be left with a very expensive white elephant.

And then, after a page or two of cold, hard realities, a single paragraph of reasoned opinion.

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together. The world is watching, let’s set them an example to follow.

How dare you, David? How very dare you?

Of course, as a Cape Town resident, you might feel that sharing this sort of thing might move some of the responsibility away from the city and onto your shoulders. And, if I may be so bold, that’s probably one very good reason that these myths have conveniently gone unchallenged and been perpetuated on social media, around braais, and on social media around braais.

Why not lead the way by breaking the cycle and when one of these Seven Deadly Myths [Really? – Ed.] gets quoted in your presence, give them a friendly nudge or punch in the face and tell them the truth?

It’s ever so liberating.

Compare and contrast

Part 1.

I took this photograph of a rather verdant scene featuring Wynberg Hill, Newlands Forest and Table Mountain on the 21st October 2017 at 10:21:49.

Because of the precise GPS settings on the Mavic Pro, I know exactly where I took it from as well. Technology, ne?

My plan is to take another photo (or maybe more than one) on other 21sts  (or as close as weather, work and will allows) with a view to comparing just how dry and yellow/brown Cape Town gets over summer with absolutely no water to spare for the plants.

This image was taken in a week when the dam levels rose by 1.1% (to 38.5%) after some decent rain, so it marks a good time to get a green benchmark and also, in many people’s minds, the likely the last increase of the year.

Look out for part two at some other stage.

Cape Town Earthquake!

Sort of, anyway:

That email to me (personally, see the header) from the USGS ENS, telling me about a quake just down the road ocean from Cape Agulhas. I never felt a thing. But then it was about 2000km away.

Here are the details – phew, it looks like we dodged a bullet:

Although, has anyone heard anything from Bouvet Island this morning?
Their twitter account (here) doesn’t mention anything. Mind you, it seems to have given up when Trump became US President. Perhaps understandably.

An aside: Bouvet Island looks amazing. I’d certainly visit there if it wasn’t for the earthquake danger.

Drought posters: too much?

Local authorities in Cape Town have come under fire this week for their latest attempts to convince tourists of the severity of the drought in the Mother City, with critics saying the posters “go too far”, and are “frankly rather scary” and “wholly distasteful”.

The summer tourist season is approaching, and many residents have expressed concern that transient visitors will either be unaware of our water crisis or simply won’t care, and would therefore waste our precious resources. Tourism is huge business in the Western Cape, with 1.5 million international visitors spending a massive R18 billion in the province in 2016. It’s clear that without that money, Cape Town would be in deep trouble, but running out of water completely would obviously be a disaster.

However, those same residents were stunned at the authorities response, with shocking posters which are set to be displayed prominently in the arrivals area in the airport and at popular tourist sites around the city.

Elsie Grootbek of Newlands was aghast:

Look, of course I know that the drought is a big issue, but South Africa does have a bit of a reputation and posters like this really don’t help with that. This is terrible. Which moron actually thought that this would be a good idea?

Reaction to other posters was equally incredulous. Fanie Praatbaie, a guest house owner in Melkbosstrand, couldn’t believe the posters and was concerned what effect they might have:

It’s bad taste and really off-putting. We’ll talk to our visitors, one to one, and explain the water crisis. We don’t need this sort of thing welcoming our tourists. It might even spark vigilante action if one of our guests takes a 4 minute shower or something. It’s hugely worrying.

However, government representatives were quick to point out that this ‘shocked’ reaction was exactly what they were after.

Spokesperson Willem van der Maydup told us:

It’s really not meant to be threatening. It’s just designed to make people think when they turn the taps on in their hotel rooms. Water is the lifeblood of any city, and we want visitors to value our water as if it were their own blood.
I showed one of the posters to my 6 year old son last week and it’s clearly had an effect: he hasn’t even gone into the bathroom since then. Or slept.

It’s unclear whether the backlash will force the authorities to change their mind on the controversial campaign, but with the local tourism season just around the corner, it may be too late to come up with an alternative means of getting their important message across.