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.


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.

Water delivery

What are our swimming pools short of at the moment?

Heat! Water – they’re short of water. And OK, yes, heat too. Freezing.

For several months now, we haven’t been allowed to top swimming pools up because of the water restrictions and the ongoing drought. And fair enough too. Luxuries should be the first thing to be sacrificed in times of strife.
Actually, our small pool is still brimming, thanks to the pool cover I purchased over a year ago. Evaporation is next to nothing and the whatever rain we do get has been enough to keep it full.

But what if you don’t have a pool cover and your precious water has gone and done evaporated?

Well then you buy water from an (allegedly illegal) water delivery service to fill it up again.

Filling a 30 000 litre pool in Grassy Park would cost R7000. The total includes the transportation charge.
We have a 24 000 litre trailer with three compartments which hold 8000 litres. We deliver to any area in the Western Cape. We only work with cash payments. A recent fill-up we did was in Brackenfell and it was a 24 000 litre pool, the customer paid R6000.

My pool isn’t big, but it is slightly bigger than those volumes featured. My pool cover cost R1500. Just saying.

I have to admit that I am actually rather impressed and even a little amused by the entrepreneurial spirit shown by these guys, although not by their apparently nefarious activities and their exorbitant rates.
Also, cash only seems to be a simple and legit way to do business, hey?

Anyway, now that they’ve been outed by the local media…

The Daily Voice spoke to the owner of Bulk Water, Itsik Tsour, who stated the company was licensed. When called back to request proof of the licence, both numbers of the business went to voicemail.

…it seems unlikely that they’re going to be topping up any more local pools in the foreseeable future.

The South African Civil War – a short historical essay

No-one truly believed that South Africa would escape the descent into civil war at some stage – that was sadly inevitable – but I would wager that few of the naysayers and doom and gloom merchants could ever have accurately predicted the source of the conflict. It seems likely that, if pushed, most of them would have plumped for one of the more obvious causes: poverty, inequality, politics, corruption, race. But of course, that wasn’t it.

No-one ever realised that the previously-docile, overtly-privileged, white upper-middle class would rise up after the rumours that the City of Cape Town had threatened to close Newlands Spring. Even looking back, it seems ridiculous that this could be a trigger for any confrontation, let alone a protracted armed engagement between citizens of the Republic, but no-one thought about it. Well, why would you?

No-one foresaw that springing (no pun intended) from an online petition (where else?) set up by local businessman, ex-water collector and now infamous instigator of widespread civil unrest, Riyaz Rawoot, would come an army of discontented middle-aged white people. Never mind that the alleged closure turned out to be an entirely unresearched story put out by a local newspaper in order to incite outrage in an attempt to increase their dismal sales figures. That’s just incidental. It’s history now.

No-one would have believed that a barrage of strongly worded letters from the Southern Suburbs would be all that it took to bring down the elected leadership of Cape Town and the Western Cape, after they were unable to provide a satisfactory response within the 10 working days as promised in their electoral manifesto, prompting mass resignations in the higher echelons of provincial government. We had always thought that the war would be fought twixt electric fences and long knives (or at least machetes from Builders Warehouse). But the pen, it seems, is indeed mightier than the panga.

No-one ever thought that the effect of that sudden power vacuum in the south west of the country would be so disastrous. That it could come to this. That the alleged threatened lack of access to a slightly broken 4 inch plastic pipe at the end of a cul-de-sac in an affluent Cape Town suburb could drag the entirety of Southern Africa into bloody conflict.

No-one ever considered the butterfly effect; the implications of the true powerbase of the country getting swept up in a wave of outrage over a misunderstanding of what was frankly a rather trivial issue anyway.

No-one should ever underestimate how something so small could lead to our collective downfall.

Have a nice day.

Save Water – Times Live

Here’s local rag The Times reporting on the City of Cape Town’s new water usage calculator website:

If you think it starts with some bad advice (and it does – why immediately double the length of your shower “just because you can”?), then you need to read through again and see how it ends:

Jesus. No. Simply not happening.