Did it rain?

No. Not really.

We were all excited as numerous weatherpersons told us that a cold front was going to hit Cape Town yesterday evening. And they weren’t wrong, but as cold fronts go, it turned out to be a bit of a damp dry squib. Thirty minutes of intermittent drizzle later, we all gave up and went back to whatever we were doing before: watching TV, being irritated by the beagle or… er… praying for rain.

To add to our misery, there are no further cold fronts – ineffectual or otherwise – or rain in the forecast for at least the next 10 days.
Cape Town apparently has about 100 days water supply left – something that’s now even making international news.
That’s a bit scary for a city of over 4 million people.

Dam scary

Please do click through to Wessel Wessels’ album of photographs taken at the Theewaterskloof Dam (the largest of the six main dams that supply water to Cape Town). It makes for sobering viewing:

Theewaterskloof is currently just 25% full.
Not this bit of it, obviously.
This bit isn’t full at all.

Rain Prayers planned “soon”

Religious leaders in Cape Town have said that they will get round to praying for rain soon.
The city is currently in the throes of its worst drought for decades, and Mayor Patricia de Lille had appealed to senior figures from across the religious spectrum to pray for precipitation as dam levels continued to fall. However, with no significant rainfall in several weeks, there are some individuals who are beginning to doubt that the praying was having any effect.

But now there has been widespread shock as a Cape Town newspaper investigation has revealed that most local religious leaders haven’t actually been praying for rain at all.

Tamboerskloof vicar Rev. Denise Woodhouse stated that she had been instructed by her senior clergy to hold off any specific reference to rain in her Sunday prayers “until April or May”.
When it was pointed out to her that this was rather convenient timing, given that that’s when the seasonal rains usually begin anyway, she replied, “Yes, isn’t God amazing?” and hurried off to help with pouring the tea at the Women’s Auxiliary meeting.

In Rondebosch, Minister Peter Mulhearn echoed Rev Woodhouse’s words: “Apparently, God’s got a lot of stuff on His plate right now,” he said. “There are wars all over the place, there’s the ongoing plight of the rhino, and this whole Donald Trump thing is probably taking up an awful lot of His time. I think we need to give Him a break on these very local matters until at least mid-Autumn time. Then we’ll put forward Cape Town’s case for rain. And you just watch – He will surely deliver.”

And it was much the same story from Wynberg Imam Iqbal Sadiq, who told us: “Now is not the time for panic. We are aware of the Mayor’s request, and have scheduled a Salat Al-Istisqa’ (prayer for rain) for early winter. We are sure that Allah will provide.”

When questioned about the apparent delay in prayers for rainfall, a city spokesperson stated: “Obviously, we can only ask. It’s in the hands of religious leaders as to if and when they choose to pray for rain. And it’s only one of the many sensible strategies that the city has put in place to deal with the water crisis. We’re hopeful that the our unicorn-powered pumping station in Kraaifontein will pick up the shortfall in the meantime.”

Water Crisis Solved

In order to understand the thinking behind my idea what has just single-handedly solved the local water crisis, you need to be aware of a couple of points.

Point 1: There is a water crisis in Cape Town. I may have repeatedly mentioned the drought and the ongoing – and constantly more stringent – water restrictions somewhere on the blog previously.
The dams are down to 37%. We need water.

Point 2: There’s an absolutely massive chunk of ice about to fall off Antarctica.

Beagle-eyed readers might already see where I’m going with this, but you’re too late. I’ve emailed everyone who matters in this (fairly obvious with hindsight) plan of mine. Stakeholders and roleplayers are on board. Some of them quite literally.
I’m talking about the Smit Amandla Marine Salvage (and now Iceberg Towing) guys; I’m talking about the Mayor of the Cape Town, Patricia “Peppermint Patty” de Lille (I also gave Empress Helen a buzz, just to keep her in the loop); and I’m talking about several local artisanal gin manufacturers, who – together with their tonic making colleagues – would surely not want to miss out on this opportunity to have pristine Antarctic ice freshly-delivered right to their metaphorical doorstep, courtesy of global warming and the newly-formed 6000 miles… Ice Company (Pty) Ltd.

I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and I reckon that the distance from the Larsen C Ice Shelf (for it is that what is breaking) to Cape Town is a distance of about 6000…. [audience hold breath expectantly] …kilometres [audience sighs with disappointment].

That’s not so far, and the amount of ice that’s going to break off, while difficult to accurately estimate, is certainly substantial enough to warrant the effort of towing it to Cape Town. The depth of the broken ice shelf is almost a kilometre, and it’s going to be between 120-150km long and about 75km wide.

A further rudimentary calculation suggests that it therefore has a volume of 8,400,000,000 cubic metres. That’s 8.4 billion megalitres. Moist.
We can’t (and mustn’t) get carried away though. Remember that ice is an expanded version of water. A version of water that’s 9.05% expanded.

So we’re actually going to get 76.02 billion megalitres. Still, at 800Ml usage per day, that’s still enough to keep us going for 9½ million days, or just over 26,000 years.

Yeah. Some of it might melt on the way, I know. Whatevs.
So let’s round it off to a nice 25,000 years of clean, fresh, pure water.

Still got to be worth it.

There are a couple of logistical challenges to overcome, I admit. It’s quite close to Argentina and they might want it, but then again, so are the Falkland Islands and they want them too, but they’re not having them. Or my ice shelf. Hard luck.

Then there’s the issue of where to store it. Ideally, what we need is a nice long, deep, three-sided valley that we can build a big wall across the end of. Franschhoek will do. Franschhoek, with its outrageous faux French accents and that ridiculous double H nonsense in the middle.

True, we’ll lose one of the scenic gems of the Cape, some of the best restaurants in the world and some truly amazing wine farms…

…but on the plus side, we’ll have water for the next 250 centuries.
A worthwhile sacrifice, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Au revoir.

This particular idea is mine, but the genre is not new. As this article informs us:

Long-distance iceberg towing is one of those ideas that will not die but never really springs to life either. It exists in a kind of technological purgatory, dressed up in whatever technology is fashionable during an epoch and resold to a happily gullible media.

Pretty much what I just did in the 450 words above, then. And pretty much what Hult and Ostrander did in 96 pages back in 1973. True, their idea has never caught on in the 44 intervening years, but then they never had the power of social media available to make their case.
And once you get some middle-aged white people in Constantia – desperately concerned at the state of their lawns – on your side, once you get Facebook groups and online petitions going, once you bombard Cape Talk and Carte Blanche, those bastions of public opinion, with your fantastic plan to provide water for the Cape for the next nine and a half million days, (and once you’ve silenced the whinging residents of Franschhoek) I think we’ll come up with a plan to get the Larsen C Ice Shelf to the Western Cape fairly quickly.

Never forget, dear readers: You heard it here first.

3b (or not 3b?)

It looks like the City of Cape Town, aghast that their current water restrictions and increased pricing seems to have had no effect on consumption (although presumably less concerned by the R33 million in extra revenue they’ve made from it), are going to move to Level 3b water restrictions.

Basically, this is just a more draconian version of the current Level 3 restrictions, including:

Watering/irrigation (with municipal drinking water) of flower beds, lawns, vegetables and other plants, sports fields, parks and other open spaces is allowed only on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 09:00 or after 18:00 for a maximum of one hour per day per property and only if using a bucket or watering can. No use of hosepipes or any sprinkler systems allowed.
Currently, you can water whenever you want, but only with a bucket or watering can.

No watering/irrigation is allowed within 48 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities/customers making use of boreholes, treated effluent water, spring water or well-points are not exempt.
That’s up from the current 24 hours.

No washing of vehicles or boats using municipal drinking water is allowed. Vehicles and boats must be washed with non-potable water or washed at a commercial carwash.
Currently, you may wash your vehicle at home with a bucket.

In addition, the City is promising stricter policing of the restrictions, including investigating the top 20,000 water users in the metro, “the majority of whom reside in formal areas of the metro”.

The question is, why haven’t the City been doing more already? More communication, more education, more enforcement?

But then they make this vow:

We are also requesting our religious leaders to pray for rain.

Well, that’ll make it all ok then. Quite astonishing.

Why haven’t our religious leaders been praying for rain already? And if they have, where’s the evidence? Who’s withholding the damn rain anyway, and why? What sort of God would do that, killing all the plants, creating conditions favourable for the spread of wildfires, making our food more expensive and our daily lives more miserable?

When it doesn’t rain again, because praying is a complete waste of time, the new restrictions seems likely to come in to force on 1st February 2017.