It’s not quite 3½ years since I took these photos at Theewaterskloof Dam – or what should have been Theewaterskloof Dam, at least.
Back then, we were on the verge of Day Zero, about the be the first big city in the world to run out of water.
Today, Theewaterskloof Dam level stands at 101.1% full. That’s more full than it actually can be. How cool is that?
On the water front, at least, things are looking pretty good:
We don’t need to worry too much about the Steenbras twins, but it would be nice to see Voëlvlei join the vol vlei party (see what I did there?). Probably not, if you’re outside SA, and you’re probably better off for that.
Photos from our few days away are still being processed. There are almost 1000 of them. It may take a while.
More amazing blogger professionalism here as I noted that it was (almost) a year ago when I took this group of pictures at the – then empty – Theewaterskloof Dam near Villiersdorp. Here’s the post.
It being (almost) one year on, it seems reasonable – essential, even – that I should return and do a comparison set of images. But I simply don’t have the time to fit that in, so you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that things are much improved from those worrying conditions of early February 2018. w
Today, Theewaterskloof stands at 48% full, compared to 14% when we visited last year. Overall, our dams are 62% full, compared to 27% this time last year. There are no worries about not having water in a couple of months time. All is good. All is moist.
There is a small, yet vocal, minority of individuals who still believe that the entire water crisis was simply a myth. They argue that it was merely a DA (our local ruling party) ploy to charge more money for water and to install Israeli-made water meters. There are two points that I would like to make to these people:
Firstly, that there is a small, yet vocal, minority of individuals who still believe that the moon landings were faked. They are also wrong.
Secondly, supposing for just a moment that their allegations are correct (which they’re not); the sheer amount of effort to clandestinely remove billions and billions of litres of water over three years – enough to fool NASA (the same guys who faked the moon landings), prevent meaningful precipitation over a catchment area of 500 square kilometres (for Theewaterskloof alone) for 36 months and make news headlines worldwide surely deserves some sort of accolade? Admit it: that is an incredible endeavour.
And for those thinking of switching their upcoming election vote away from the DA because of the way that they handled the crisis (and yes, it certainly wasn’t perfect), please make sure you choose to vote for a party which you genuinely believe could have managed it any better. There’s suddenly not such a great selection any more, hey?
Yet another so-called anomaly pounced upon by the conspiracy theorists when it comes to the Cape Town water crisis is that of the Table Mountain dams.
Yes, there are five dams on the top of Table Mountain. They were built there during late 1800s and early 1900s as the population of Cape Town expanded and more water was required. Maybe we should have tried this idea more recently too. Anyway, you can still visit the dams on the top of the mountain (but be careful) and you can still see a lot of the late Victorian infrastructure running through Newlands Forest.
The dams are Woodhead (1), Hely-Hutchinson (2), Victoria (3), Alexandra (4) and De Villiers (5). The other blue area towards the suburbs on the right is the Kirstenbosch dam, and doesn’t count here.
Anyway, there are two questions that people are asking about the Table Mountain dams. Firstly, why are they so full compared with the other dams out east (79.9% vs 25.9% on February 1st)?
Table Mountain is a 1km high lump of rock surrounded by very little other stuff which is 1km high. Its location right down in the very bottom corner of Africa, ostensibly bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on 2½ sides means that it has its own microclimate and is a veritable magnet for rapidly condensing air. It’s regularly moist on top. It’s one of the reasons that the dams were built there in the first place (the other being the use of gravity to produce water pressure). Newlands’ proximity to the mountain explains why it is so wet compared with virtually every other Cape Town suburb. And also why it’s dark there by 2pm every day in winter. So yes, the top of Table Mountain is more regularly wet than most anywhere else in the metropole (including Newlands).
And that’s why those dams are fuller than you might have expected.
Next question – why aren’t we using that water?
Well, right now, any water is good water. So don’t get me wrong when I tell you this. But there’s actually not much water in those dams, even when they’re full.
Those 5 dams (together) have a total capacity of 2376 Ml. Theewaterskloof (alone) has a total capacity of 480188 Ml. That’s over 202 times the combined capacity of the Table Mountain dams. And even though Theewaterskloof is very, very empty (13%) at the moment (see here) (and not here), there’s still 24 times more water in it right now than there is in the (80% full) Table Mountain dams.
The total capacity of the Big 6 dams supplying Cape Town is 378 times the capacity of the Table Mountain dams. Scale.
Even if we could (and did) empty what’s in those dams, it would only give Cape Town about 4 days water, which is certainly not to be sniffed at, but is not going to save a doomed city of 4 million residents either.
I hope that has answered your questions. Have a special day.
I was a bit naughty yesterday, but I’m not sorry. Everyone should be a bit naughty every now and again. I’m not advocating murder or anything. Nothing illegal. Just a bit of mischief, which harms no-one and which keeps your heart young.
As ever with a big news story in the modern era, everyone wants to be the first to share the latest developments and fresh angles. There’s a certain gratification to be found in being the one to tell your friends about the breaking news you have just read. They didn’t know. You informed them. You’re the man (or woman). Noddy badge of honour time.
The water crisis is dominating the news here at the moment, as it has monotonously for several months now. There are no new angles anymore. Even Helen Zille’s tweets are only generating transient, short-lived outrage.
Still, when I put out this tweet yesterday, I was rather surprised when people quickly shared it.
Several people remarked on it and shared it, often with a sad emoji, because it clearly doesn’t look like a major reservoir feeding a city of 4 million people should.
This composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp was taken on September 9, 2015, by NASA’s Curiosity rover. In the foreground — about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the rover — is a long ridge teeming with hematite, an iron oxide. Just beyond is an undulating plain rich in clay minerals. And just beyond that are a multitude of rounded buttes, all high in sulfate minerals.
So, no. This isn’t Theewaterskloof dam “from the Villiersdorp road”. It’s another planet about 55 million kilometres away.
Still, there are some similarities:
The changing mineralogy in these layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago. Further back in the image are striking, light-toned cliffs in rock that may have formed in drier times and now is heavily eroded by winds.
This was never meant to be a social experiment. I lobbed it up there as a bit of a joke. Perhaps naively, I expected everyone to see it exactly for what it was. Instead, there were only a couple of engagements which suggested that*. The remainder simply clicked the Retweet button apparently without even thinking.
I’ve learned something from this, but I suspect I might be just about alone in that.
*One of them was from Jonathan Meyer** **He’s very anxious for me to point that out to you
As the spectre of Day Zero continues to ever more occupy the Cape Town psyche, one particular group of complete and utter charlatans is feigning panic more loudly than many others.
Local homeopaths, whose sham of an industry relies almost entirely on selling people small, expensive bottles of water, are voicing their concerns that they may not be able to offer their completely ineffectual services once the taps run dry.
Ron Liar, spokesperson for local quack body, the Society of Homeopaths In Town (SHIT) this morning issued a statement in which he expressed anxiety over the immediate future of their members as Day Zero approaches:
As a group representing registered Homeopaths in Cape Town, we are dismayed at the thought of the city running out of water. Water is the lifeblood of mankind, but is especially important in our field of expertise. Indeed, without water, homeopathy is unable to function, since all our products are, in fact, just small, expensive bottles of water. If we are forced to reduce our water usage, our preparations will increase in concentration to the point where molecules of the so-called active ingredient may even be found in them. Not only would this cause them to work less effectively (as per the pseudoscientific laws to which we ascribe), it might actually make them genuinely toxic. We use some really horrible stuff in there, you know? That’s one of the reasons we quietly dilute the living hell out of them before we had them over to the victim client. It might actually kill them if we didn’t. We need that water.
But the idiots who actually pay these fraudsters for their snake oil seemed unperturbed. We interrupted Obs resident Moonbell Dinglebat during her Nepalese Meditation session and she told us that had her own method of getting around the issue:
If there is a water shortage at my homeopathist, I’ll simply take more of whatever he prescribes for me: using two five millilitre vials instead of one ten millilitre vial will not only reduce the dosage I receive, thus increasing the effect of the preparation, it will also save water and help to protect Mother Earth.
At this point, we had to terminate the interview, because quite frankly, our heads were about to explode, and the thin mask of professionalism behind which at least some our work takes place was becoming dangerously close to slipping.
The challenges that Cape Town faces as we become the first major city to run out of water (yeah, I’ve seen the thing on Sao Paulo, don’t @ me) are numerous and terrifying. Thus, if there are any positives that can be taken from the situation, we should do so with great glee, and the imminent death of the fraudulent homeopathic businesses across the Mother City is surely the one that I’m looking forward to the most.