With drought an ever present threat, the City of Cape Town has approved plans to build a plant to turn salty sea water into potable water.
Visitors to Cape Town this festive season will arrive as the Mother City struggles through the worst drought in living memory. At present dams supplying the city stand at 35% capacity, but without any rains the levels will be closer to 25% by December.
Minister of local government‚ environmental affairs and development planning in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell, says the province has been managing drought conditions in some parts of the region since 2010.
“Three years of below-average rainfall have exacerbated the situation and despite proactive measures like the implementation of water restrictions and programmes to clear the Berg River of alien vegetation‚ the reality is we are faced with a dire situation.”
Inspired by the Target 140 Campaign implemented in South East Queensland, Australia, Cape Town embarked on reducing water usage. So far residents’ water usage has dropped below 100 litres per person per day, making the City’s Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme one of the most successful water conservation projects globally – a fact recognised at the 2015 C40 Cities Awards in Paris.
Mayor Patricia de Lille thanked Capetonians and commended them “for rising to the occasion to save more water in our City because we are determined that we will not allow a well-run City to run out of water”.
The mayor told the media the City will run out of water by March next year, at current usage levels. Despite water restrictions and the water savings achieved, Cape Town still needs 450 megalitres of water a day.
With no end to the drought in sight, the City has approved plans to build a desalination plant to turn salty sea water into potable water.
Construction will begin in December at the V&A Waterfront, the first approved site. By February the plant will feed two million litres of water into municipal networks.
The harbour site will allow the City to draw water from the harbour and pump the salt brine residue into the ocean. As David Green, V&A Waterfront chief executive officer, explained: “At peak we have about 7m tidal waves, which means that there is no issue in terms of marine life, the brine is cleared immediately.”
The V&A plant is the first of a possible eight the City wants to build. Down from an original 17, the other sites include Dido Valley‚ Granger Bay, Harmony Park, Hout Bay‚ Monwabisi, Strand and Strandfontein.
The plants will have a working life of two years and, it is hoped, will supply the City with up to 15 million litres of usable water a day.