Sewing doesn’t help

Yesterday was nice. Really nice. A couple of light showers and drizzle for most of the day. A miserable Sunday at any other time or in any other place, but we loved it. The garden was sighing with relief, the rainwater tanks were refilled, and we got at least another 1200 litres into the pool, whose situation had, in all honesty, been looking a little precarious.

It was like someone had pressed a reset button. Wonderful.

But this was small scale, of course. Yesterday won’t have made any meaningful difference to our water crisis. It just made my lawn feel a bit happier. We need real, heavy, prolonged, regular rain to sort out our water problems.

But yesterday was nice. Really nice.

While I’m on the subject of the water crisis (but then actually, when am I ever not?), let me remind you that sewing doesn’t help the situation. Not sewing as in stitching a couple of pieces of fabric together (although that won’t assist us either), but SEWing.

SEW stands for Someone Else’s Water, and SEWing is a new concept that I have noted recently and named, like the Stable Genius™ I can like to be.

Saving water has become, in some circles at least, intensely competitive.

Bring it on, I say.

If my triumphant, vaguely arrogant assertion at a braai that “We’re down to 50 litres a day” somehow spurs you into trying to reduce your daily water usage, then that’s great. Everyone benefits.
But your reduction must be a genuine one, made by saving water in your own home. It’s no use merely SEWing. That doesn’t help anyone.

SEWing is the act of ostensibly saving water, but merely doing so by diverting your actual usage onto someone else’s account. There appear to be many ways to SEW, all of which will lower your household water bill, but won’t help the overall water crisis situation in any way. Handing your washing over to a local laundry. Watering your garden using a hosepipe attached to next door’s tap while they’re away on holiday. Showering at the gym. Washing your car at a local car wash. Saving that big poo for work.

Spoiler alert: Just because that water doesn’t appear on your municipal bill doesn’t mean it isn’t getting used. It’s all coming from the same worryingly empty dams.

Your rates bill may look good, your car may look good, your garden may even look good if (in an entirely hypothetical situation) your neighbour asked you to keep an eye on their property while they went to Europe for Christmas [nervous cough], but it’s a hollow victory.

So if you’re a closet SEWer, you’ve been rumbled. I’m on to you and your despicable, duplicitous, deceitful actions. It’s time to think again. Because you’re not moving Day Zero out by dropping the kids off at the pool at the office.
And your colleagues hate you for it too.

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.

Emerald

Cape Town swimming pool owners. Have you looked under your pool cover lately?

I lifted our cover this morning. Oh dear.

I hadn’t touched the cover in quite a while (does it show?): it’s just been there for the last n months, doing the whole “preventing evaporation” thing. And, I have to say, doing it quite well in all honesty. Check out my water level!

But yes, while the metaphorical cat has been studiously ignoring the pool, the murine algae has been having a field day.

It’ll clean up quickly with a bit of spit, polish and sodium hypochlorite though. And it’s not like I can see us getting much use out of it this year anyway: evaporation is too much of a risk and with nothing falling from the heavens to refill it, it could result in damage to the pool or to the pump.

This is clearly (poor choice of word) a First World Problem, but right now, it’s my First World Problem and that’s why I’m blogging about it.

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.