South Africa's real water crisis: not understanding what's needed

"A serious multi-year drought in parts of South Africa's Northern and Eastern Cape provinces has seen a number of small towns threatened by total water supply failures and livestock farmers facing financial ruin. In other parts of the country, heatwave conditions and the late onset of rains have caused local supply failures. Although the dams that supply most of the main urban areas are still at reasonable levels, there are growing fears that the country may be witnessing the start of a major drought.

Cape Town’s experience of extreme “Day Zero” supply restrictions only adds to these fears. Weather forecasters seem unable to make reliable predictions more than a few weeks in advance. And there are nagging concerns about the government’s ability to identify and address emerging problems.

Unhelpfully, there’s no single water problem and the issues confronted vary widely from place to place."

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Invasive alien vegetation a major threat to Cape dam levels - scientist

"Alien vegetation poses a significant threat to Cape Town's water supply, says biodiversity scientist Jasper Slingsby.  Slingsby co-authored an opinion piece that appeared on the Daily Maverick. He says that removing alien trees near water catchment areas should form part of the City of Cape Town's water augmentation schemes.  Slingsby claims that invasive alien trees currently reduce water supply to dams by more than 100 megalitres per day. He says alien vegetation also impacts on groundwater replenishment. According to Slingsby, an aggressive alien removal plan is needed around key catchment areas which are the most invaded and which have higher rainfall"

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk


Forget desalination, first clear alien trees to save CT's water supply - expert

"The City of Cape Town needs to make budget provisions to clear the invasive alien trees which are guzzling Cape Town's water supply. This is according to biodiversity scientist Jasper Slingsby. Slingsby has argued that removing alien trees near water catchment areas should take precedent over other water augmentation schemes. He explains alien clearing is the most cost effective and poses the least risk to the environment."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

'Clearing thirsty alien vegetation a cheaper way to help fill up Cape dams'

"Alien vegetation still poses a significant threat to Cape Town's water supply. Clearing the water-guzzling invasive alien trees is the most cost-effective solution to help with the City of Cape Town’s water resilience plan. This is according to Louise Stafford, the Nature Conservancy's water fund project director for South Africa.  While city officials consider spending R8-billion on engineered solutions to boost Cape Town's water supply, Stafford says alien plant clearing will guarantee the most water return for the least cost. According to Stafford, a total of 50 billion litres (two months' water supply for Cape Town) could be harnessed if 54 000 hectares of identified alien vegetation is cleared around the Cape's dams."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

Researchers call for flow of water research, education towards developing world

"According to newly released research from the United Nations University, post-secondary education and research aimed at tackling the global water crisis is concentrated in wealthy countries rather than the poorer, developing places where it is most needed. Two new papers from the UNU's Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health call for reducing this "alarming" imbalance between resources and need, which impedes the search for solutions to crucial water challenges."

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Protecting the heart of South Africa’s water supply

"Have you ever considered where South Africa’s water comes from? Not the streams, rivers and dams, but the actual sources – the critical water catchments – that feed our river systems and, in turn, our urban centres, economies downstream and our homes? Have you thought about the legal protection these water sources require, or whether they are indeed properly managed?"

Read the article in UCT News



How dirty is the Cape Flats groundwater?

"According to the City of Cape Town’s Water Outlook Report of 31 December, drilling and testing during 2018 revealed that “in general”, the water from the Cape Flats Aquifer “is not suitable for immediate human consumption and must be treated to potable standards before it enters the reticulation system”. This results in higher costs per unit of groundwater."

Read the full article on GroundUp


What Cape Town's drought can teach other cities about climate adaptation

"Extreme weather events, such as Cyclone Idai that has recently devastated Beira, Mozambique, and Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, USA, in 2017 are the types of climate extremes that cities increasingly have to prepare for. Cities, particularly those with extensive informal settlements in the developing world, are being hit hard by these new climatic realities. Although rapid onset disasters often have devastating effects, slow onset climate events, such as drought, can also be detrimental."

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Protection of strategic water source areas should be legislated, says UCT researcher

"Left unprotected, South Africa's strategic water source areas are highly vulnerable to inappropriate development, according to Amanda Mkhonza, an environmental law lecturer at the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Institute of Marine & Environmental Law. While the National Water Act recognises the protection of water resources, such as rivers, it makes no mention of these vital areas in particular. 

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New initiative documents lessons from Cape Town water crisis

"A collective of academics and practitioners has launched a new initiative that will document and capture key learnings from the 2017-2018 Cape Town water crisis that came close to being a catastrophe for the city. In November 2017, with dam levels at just 38.4%, the City of Cape Town officially adopted the concept of Day Zero – the day when the taps would run dry and citizens would be rationed to collecting 25 litres of water per person per day. In January 2018, Day Zero was pegged at 22 April that year."

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Limpopo dam levels continue to decline, says Water and Sanitation Department

"The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is calling on water users to continue using water sparingly as dam levels continue to drop weekly. The province’s average dam levels are at 65.7%, showing a decline compared to the same period when readings were last recorded at 73.4%. “The summary of the Water Management Area (WMA) for Limpopo reflects a decline compared to last year this time when water levels were 76.2% compared to the current 68.7%. The Olifants now stands at 63.5%, also showing a decline compared to last year’s 72.6%,” says DWS Media Liaison Director, Sputnik Ratau."

Read more on the Weekend Review