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.

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.

Anton’s grave warning

No. Not you, Anton. This Anton:

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of emails from readers struggling to work out exactly what might happen regarding the drought situation during the upcoming summer, and I’ll be absolutely honest here, I’ve fobbed them off with answers that most politicians would be proud of. I’ve meandered around the subject, filibustered relentlessly, and fed them current statistics which actually have no bearing whatsoever on the medium-term status of our water supply here in the Western Cape.

But that’s because I’m just a humble blogger. I don’t have the massive resources of Provincial Government backing me up. I can’t call upon supercomputers, meteorologists, hydrologists and Mystic Myrtle from Accounts to give me expert advice and information on how things are likely to progress from this moment onwards.

Anton has all of this (and, I suspect, more) right at his fingertips, and wow… doesn’t it just show…

Because here’s what he said yesterday:

I mean… who knew?

I had several possible scenarios for the summer planned out on the giant Western Cape water crisis whiteboard which dominates our bedroom, but I have to say that each and every one of them suggested that things were bound to improve on the drought front – at least until the next rainfall season. I certainly couldn’t have predicted that things would – and here I borrow the erstwhile MEC’s exact words – “in all likelihood” “get worse”.

And looking now, I still stand by my previous thoughts, too, because actually, without the assistance of experts, who ever could have come up with this sort of prediction: that 6 or more months of hot, dry weather locally could possibly make a drought worse (in all likelihood, at least)?

Of course, now I will have to get my (waterless) eraser out and revisit my mental machinations on the most probable consequences of the dry season on the Western Cape water crisis.

I sincerely hope that I haven’t predicted the outcome of the next rainfall season incorrectly as well. Right now, I can’t see it having any positive effect. How will water, falling from the sky make any difference to our dam levels? It clearly won’t, and it’s laughable to think otherwise.

Although, thinking again, maybe we should wait for the experts to confirm that.

After all, insight like this is exactly why we pay them the big, big bucks.