Capetonians stood together and saved water, the water in our dams could last
double the current predicted time-period.
So says Dr
Willem de Clercq, a water researcher from the Stellenbosch
University Water Institute (SUWI).
He says the
current “water crisis” has been caused by multiple factors playing out at the
same time: more people living in the city, climate change and general warming
of the continent: “South Africa has experienced and survived many droughts in
the past. While the current drought is not the most severe drought we have ever
experienced, it is the first drought where we have to provide water to 54
The City of
Cape Town, for example, provides water to more than eight million people: “Two
to three years ago, many of these people were water users in the rural areas.
Over the past ten years the City of Cape Town’s annual water budget has more
than doubled,” he explains.
also in an era of large seasonal climatic instability, which is causing major
problems in the agricultural sector in terms of employment. Export farmers are
losing revenue and this means more people are moving from rural areas to the
cities. We therefore have an enormous responsibility to take stewardship of our
water resources and to manage this complex situation.”
He says the
Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have so far done an excellent
job. But they cannot succeed without the public’s support.
levels in the dams cannot go lower than about 25%. When that happens,
sludge-filled water will start moving through the systems. This causes all
kinds of problems with maintenance of the pipe systems and municipalities’
ability to deliver clean drinking water to consumers. The water will taste foul
and people will have to buy their drinking water,” he warns.
Clercq says there are numerous alternatives to improve the Western Cape’s
ability to provide and store water, but it comes at a tremendous price. A
desalination plant for Cape Town, for example, requires another power station.
and time can be put to far better use for replanning our current storage and
distribution systems and increasing their effectiveness.”
The City of
Cape Town also has several backup plans. One of them is to pump water through
the Du Toitskloof tunnel to Paarl and from there to Cape Town. Or to access
groundwater resources: “The aquifers in our mountains store a tremendous amount
of water, but using it will impact on plant and animal life. The City of Cape
Town has, however, done extensive work to characterise these groundwater
resources so that it can be put to use in times of crisis,” he adds.
the main concern remains people’s attitude towards water. All South Africans
should realise that it is each and everybody’s responsibility to save water and
to look after our water resources, he concludes.