Oh dear

Twenty-nine point eight per cent.

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We are now officially critical.

And yet no-one seems to give a toss.
Look around the suburbs and everyone is still wasting water.

Bewildering, isn’t it?

Going critical

Nothing good comes from things going critical. Nuclear power plants are probably highest up the list of things which are bad when they go critical, with toddler tantrums pretty close behind.
Critical isn’t good situation to be in. Critical is… well… critical.

Unless something rather remarkable occurs very shortly, when their capacities are measured again on Monday, Cape Town’s dams will have fallen below the “critical” level of 30%.

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It’s obviously an arbitrary level that they’ve chosen to call “critical”, and quite what happens when we cross that threshold is unclear, although we have been told that we shouldn’t panic. But then, that begs the question, why bother having a “critical” level in the first place if nothing changes once you find yourself below it?

After all, very little happened when we crossed the legendary “careful now” 70% margin, nor the distinctly worrying “er… guys…?” 50% line.

I do hope that the city council have got this all in hand…

Barry Wood, the city’s manager of bulk water supply, told the council’s portfolio committee “We don’t have to be too concerned, provided that it starts to rain.”

Ah. That’s all ok then.
Colour me completely reassured.

Solve a drought

While water restrictions continue to make little or no difference to our water situation (mainly because no-one takes any notice of them), I may have come up with a plan to sort out our water crisis.

Those readers who have stuck with 6000 miles… through thick and thin (mainly thin) may recall that I also came up with a plan to sort the country’s electricity crisis way back in 2008. Yikes.

Sod the Government, the captains of industry and the so-called experts countrywide who all say that there is no quick fix. I think they’re blinkered. If everyone builds their own little power station, we’ll be sorted.
As far as I can remember from my physics lessons at school, all you have to do is make steam (water + heat), turn a turbine and Bob’s your uncle.
For your average Southern Suburber, with a pool (water) and a braai (heat), that’s surely not such a big ask.
Apart from the turbine bit.

That actually worked for a while. Until my wife found out.

There are easier ways to solve the drought. Just let me buy tickets for a cricket match.

I’m not a huge fan of cricket (sidenote to self: huge fan = potential wind shortage solution), but I do like live sport and so I thought I’d make a plan waaaaay in advance of… well… of today, and buy some cricket tickets for the kids and I. Mrs 6000 had other plans for this weekend, so I only needed three. And that was a good thing, because tickets for cricket are not cheap. They’re between 5 and 10 times the price of going and watching a football match.
But then, this is an international cricket match.
But then, they’re more than twice the price of watching an international football match.

I digress. Often.

I bought the expensive tickets, for a cricket match in the middle of February, in the middle of summer, in the middle of a drought.

Can you guess what the weather was like this week in Cape Town? Yep. It was lovely. Temperatures in the mid-thirties. Cloudless skies.
And can you guess what the weather is going to be like in Cape Town next week? Yep. You’re not wrong. Gorgeous. Temperatures in the high twenties. Wall to wall sunshine.

And, dear reader, can you guess what the weather is like in Cape Town today? The day of the expensive cricket match. The first cricket match I’ve ever bought tickets for. The first cricket match my kids have ever been to?

Grey. Wet. Chilly. Miserable.

FML.

On the positive side, it did rain today, meaning that there will be no need for anyone to water their gardens tomorrow (Saturday being one of the days you’re allowed an hour of watering). And that gave me an idea.
If you can donate enough money for me to buy expensive tickets to expensive international cricket matches on a regular basis, I think that we can basically guarantee enough rain to replenish our currently understocked local dams (42% full this week).

You can try this crazy scheme by donating some money to my cause. Just leave me a comment below and I’ll be in touch to give you payment details.

Give it a go. But give it a go soon, remembering that there’s a T20 match between SA and Australia on Wednesday 9th March. Yet another opportunity to sit on a damp grass slope and watch an empty field standing in the rain.

Short

A quick post about our current predicaments:

There’s not enough electricity to go around. This is actually very old news, although South Africans continue to complain about it while doing nothing to save the damn stuff when they have it. It’s clear that generally, despite their lack of action to combat the problem, people are very unhappy about it.

The alternative, of course, is gas. We don’t have it plumbed to our houses here in SA like some other countries I’ve lived in, so it comes in big bottles. Well, it would if there wasn’t a shortage of it:

Dear Customers,
As you may have heard through the media, LP gas is currently in short supply in South Africa as a result of planned maintenance on a few of the major refineries in the country.
Please take the time to read the attached letter regarding the LP gas supply issues we are currently experiencing.

I’ll spare you the attached letter, which basically says there’s a shortage of gas, resulting in “unavoidable price increases”. Supply and demand etc etc. People are not going to be happy.

Anecdotally (hey, it works for Prof Tim), there’s also a shortage of diesel in Cape Town. My car doesn’t run on diesel. Mrs 6000’s car does run on diesel – when she can find some to put in it. Same with lorries delivering food and goods all over the country. Less diesel, higher demand, higher prices (although they are somewhat regulated in SA) = unhappy people.

And now, arguably the most serious of all, we have a shortage of water. Figures due to be released this morning will almost certainly indicate that the reservoirs supplying Cape Town are now less than half full. That’s not good, but ironically, it’s less than half the problem as well. The bigger issue is that it’s also not raining on the local farms:

A drought that has probably reduced South Africa’s corn crop for 2015 to the smallest in eight years is also putting at least half the country’s wheat harvest at risk, the largest grain farmers’ lobby said.
Farms in the Western Cape have had little or no rain since the start of the planting season in April and need showers before the end of May, Andries Theron, vice chairman of Grain SA, told reporters Thursday at an agricultural show in Bothaville.

The province, whose wheat fields are rain-fed, produces about 50% of the nation’s harvest of the cereal, data from the Grain Information Service show.
“We started planting in dry soil,” he said. “Usually, our rainy season would start in the middle of April, but it didn’t. We’ve got a hectic season on hand.”

And then this, from Agri Wes-Cape’s CEO Carl Opperman:

“This has been the driest summer the province has seen in many years. Rains that should have already fallen are desperately needed, especially by grain farmers.
“It’s a dry circle that we’ve got at the moment. We will be managing it, so we’re expecting rain in the future. It’s most probably going to be what we call ‘a dry winter'”.

Come now, Carl – drop the technical terminology, can’t you? You’re unnecessarily baffling us with bullshit there. Is there really no language you could have used so that us laypersons could understand?

Looking at the forecast for the coming week, our local grain farmers are going to remain disappointed.

And so… guess what? Less grain supply, no reduction in demand = higher prices. And that means unhappy people.

I’ve never been convinced that a single straw could break a camel’s back. But several big fat straws? Well, maybe we’re in for interesting times ahead.

Looking back: The Daily Mail Weather Outlook for 2012

This goes out to @StephanieBe who is heading out to the UK shortly and read this morning that… er… the UK is about to face its coldest winter for 100 years. Stephanie is Saffa born and bred.
Her genes aren’t cut out to cope with cold Decembers.

Stephanie is afraid.

Fortunately for Stephanie, that “coldest winter in 100 years” thing comes from the Daily Mail.
Regular readers will know that 6000 miles… loves the Daily Mail.

Britain will shiver tonight as temperatures plummet in the first taste of what promises to be one of our coldest winters for a century.
The cold snap is expected to last until the end of the week, creating dangerous conditions on the roads and adding to the misery of those already battling floods.
Temperatures could fall to as low as minus 3C in some places, with snow already falling in the Pennines.

Cold temperatures? In the UK? At the end of November? Whatever next?
Let’s have a look at how November ended when I was over in the UK in 2010, shall we?

 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 29th November 2010. Is that… snow?!?

But hey, maybe the Daily Mail has upped its weather prediction game since 2010. Let’s have a look at what they thought about 2012, shall we? This Daily Mail headline is from 15th April this year.

Britain faces worst drought since 1976 (and the Severn could dry up by summer)

Officials are concerned that a third dry winter this year could be a tipping point and trigger restrictions for businesses or even further restrictions in homes for the first time in 36 years.
The restrictions are embarrassing for the Government which is showcasing Britain during this year’s Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee. Parks are included in the hosepipe ban and London’s iconic fountains will be turned off.

Sounds bad. So what actually happened?

Well, here’s a photo I took at Howden Reservoir in Derbyshire in July, slap bang in the middle of the “worst drought since 1976”:

Yes yes, I know that the big wall is supposed to keep the water in, but the fact is that because the incessant rain throughout the summer, the dam was overflowing.

What happened? Let’s turn to… er… the Daily Mail for the answer. Here’s a story from August 29th:

After weeks of wet weather and seemingly never-ending cloud, many have dismissed the last few months as a miserable summer they would rather forget.
Today was no exception as heavy rains fell across many parts of the country as weather forecasters predict that September will bring some sun and reprieve from the wet weather but only for those in the south.
The north of Britain however should brace for more grim weather which is predicted to last until mid-September.

But… but you said that… Oh never mind. At least it wasn’t the wettest summ… oh wait. Yes, it was. Well, that is according to the Daily Mail (31st August) anyway:

The temperatures, which reflect the country’s cold and soggy weather over recent months, have proved this summer has been a complete write-off.
It came as it was revealed yesterday the summer has also been the wettest in England and Wales for a century.

The thing is, I know that forecasting the weather is not an exact science. And long range forecasting is even less exact. So yes, you’re going to get it wrong from time to time. But there’s no disclaimer in Stephanie’s “coldest winter for 100 years” Daily Mail story. There’s no:

However, while we’re telling you about how cold it’s going to be this winter, you might want to remember that we also said that this was going to be the driest summer in almost 40 years and we couldn’t actually have been more wrong about that.

So people like Stephanie who have previously lived a Daily Mail free life (lucky fish) thus far, read it – and believe it. Oops.

Stephanie, I’m no meteorological expert. I can’t tell you if it’s going to be the coldest winter foreverever when you visit the Republic of South Yorkshire this December. I feel that I’m standing on fairly solid ground when I suggest that you probably won’t need to pack your bikini for a day out on the beachfront at Filey, but that aside, it’s winter and I would expect it to be decidedly chilly. Especially when compared with your usual South African December day.

What I can tell you is that you really shouldn’t believe everything anything you read in the Daily Mail.

Happy Holidays!