Day 186 – Up the mountain

The Boy Wonder is leading a hike up Table Mountain this weekend, and so we decided to do a quick recce in case there had been any changes since the last time he/we were up there.

Not much had changed since I was last up there except that the dams were a whole lot fuller.

Here’s proof:

The image on the left – showing 11 rungs going to the water level on the Woodhead Dam – was taken on the 24th of March last year. I took the one on the right this morning and the water level is above the third rung down. 18 months and 4 days change.

The overflows were hard at work:

It wasn’t raining while we were up there – it was all gorgeous and sunny – but we did get caught in an unforecasted and therefore unexpected downpour on the way down. A stark reminder that conditions can change very quickly on the mountain.

13km (and 650m of ascent) later, we dragged our soaking wet bodies into the car and headed home for hot drinks and showers.

It was a great way to spend a morning.

Day 165 – Hasn’t it been wet?

Well, no. Not really.

Even though our dams are at a very healthy 95.6% of capacity…

… a far cry from the panic of literally running out of water not so very long ago, this has not been down to this being a particularly wet winter. In fact, this winter has been decidedly average.

graph from here

That’s the 8 months of 2020 so far in orange. Thankfully, not like 2011 (that’s the low line), but also definitely not like 2001 (that’s the very, very high line) either.

So yes, a few things like borehole augmentation, clearing of inflows and a reduction in alien vegetation around the dams will have helped, but it’s the fact that Capetonians are now using only just over half as much water each day as they used to which is making the biggest difference. We’re using just over 630 million litres per day, as opposed to the almost 1 billion litres per day prior to the nastiness of the drought in 2016-2018.

That’s a superb effort.

But…

One of the City’s methods of reducing water usage was to increase tariffs. This probably did have some effect, but now that the dams are nearly full for the first time in 6 years, isn’t it time to reduce those tariffs? The problem is that the City is selling much less water than it used to, while the efforts aimed at avoiding Day Zero two years ago were costly, and the plans to safeguard the city’s supply in a uncertain future doesn’t come for free.
Also, reduce the price of water and it stands to reason that consumption will go up again, which won’t help anyone, but might make up the shortfall in revenue.

Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, Alderman Xanthea Limberg says:

Regarding tariffs: as previously stated, a reduction in tariffs will be dependent on an increase in consumption. Currently, the City is selling approximately 30% less water than before the drought, but is facing additional costs that come with increasing our resilience. It is important that the City cover its costs to ensure that the maintenance and augmentation programmes can be carried out. Should the amount of water we are selling significantly increase this will be factored into the tariffs, but given the uncertain impact of climate change it may not be wise to actively encourage such an approach at this stage.

So. Use less water so we don’t run out, but use more water so that it costs less, so that the City makes more money to make sure that they can replace the extra water you used because it was cheaper to use more water than when you were using less water.

 

Got it.

Siemens AirDrop initiative – a bit of reality

I’m sorry to have to do this. I already did it on Twitter, but clearly very few people saw that, so now I’m doing it here as well.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Gauteng travellers are being encouraged to swop their baggage allowance for water.
During a one-day activation at OR Tambo and Cape Town International airports, travellers can participate by having their luggage weighed at the Siemens AirDrop stand, located in the check-in hall opposite the self-service check-in counters (directly next to ACSA Info Desk at OR Tambo). Any travellers whose luggage is five (or more) kilos under the weight limit will be able to ‘exchange’ their unused kilograms for litres of water that will be delivered to Cape Town on their behalf.

Sounds great, because:

This social challenge is the perfect example of how South Africans can do something helpful for their fellow citizens’. So if you are travelling to the Mother City, show them some love and donate some water to help alleviate the pressure.

And let’s make this very clear right now: anything that alerts visitors to our current plight here, anything that raises awareness, anything that jogs their memory is a good thing.

But…

I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and other than the raising awareness thing, this really isn’t going to help.

Around 2.2 million people fly from Joburg to Cape Town each year. It’s the 10th busiest route in the world. So it’s a good place to go if you want to find big numbers of people for a stunt an activation like this. But even if every single one of those annual travellers brought down 5 litres of lovely, fresh Gautengy water with them, it would only amount to…

11 million litres.

And while that sounds like a lot, there are a couple of other things to take into consideration before you get excited.
Right now, Capetonians are using 630 million litres of water each day. That’s 26.25 million litres an hour.

And now remember that this is “a one-day activation”, meaning that this offer will only apply to a maximum of just about 6000 people who will be flying that route that day. If every single one of them coming down that day donates 5 litres of water, that comes to 30000 litres.

That’s enough to keep us going for 4 seconds.

Four. Seconds. 

Four.

So yes, as a tool for raising awareness around the drought (and of Siemens, obviously), it’s great.

Siemens say:

It’s this kind of ingenuity that has made us the global leader in intelligent water management.

But as a way of intelligently managing water, this simply doesn’t work.

At all.

Sorry.

Relax. The water is fine.

Hypochondriacs and Munchausen’s Syndrome sufferers across Cape Town were yesterday distressed to learn that the drinking water in the city remains of excellent quality and was therefore not to blame for their imaginary symptoms.

“It’s going to be so difficult to find something else to whine about. The tie in between the water running out and that mild tummy ache I had for about 20 minutes last Wednesday was just so obvious,” said occasional mild tummy ache sufferer Genevieve Snowflake of Constantia.

Her views were echoed by other local overly-dramatic attention seekers:
“I did two poos yesterday, whereas I usually only do one poo each day. The second one was pretty small, but still, it’s out of character for me and I was convinced that it was all down to the Ebola in the tap water,” delicate gastrofairy Abraham Muller of Sea Point told us.
“Now I find that it was probably nothing, and I’ll probably have to go back to work again tomorrow.”

City Spokesperson Priya Unready stated: “Rightfully, much has been made of the Cape Town water crisis, but just because we only have 3½ months of water left, doesn’t mean that we’re suddenly going to stop treating the stuff coming through your taps. Aside from our legal responsibility to makes sure that the drinking water in the city is safe, why would we want to make everyone sick? That doesn’t come close to making any sense, and frankly, you’d have to be extremely stupid to believe it.”

But extremely stupid people remained unconvinced:

“It’s a plot by the Zionist leaders to kill us all via imaginary enteritis!” said weak-coloned Parklands resident Alarmed Dyomfana.
“Tony Ehrenreich told me that they all have shares in the bottled water companies and that’s how they’re going to take over the world.”

The City released this media statement:

With declining dam levels, water quality enquiries from members of the public are naturally increasing. We would like to assure residents that the water remains safe to drink. Water quality is closely monitored via a large number of water samples analysed according to the stringent South African National Standards (SANS 241:2015) requirements.

which also contained the subtext:

Oh. My. Actual. God.
I really cannot believe we have to write this down for you. Honestly, how absolutely, utterly f****** brainless do you have to be to think that we’d just randomly switch off all the water treatment works and leave you drinking what would be essentially muddy rainwater and baboon piss which had been stored for a few weeks in a big sandpit near Grabouw?
Jesus. I’ve got a Diploma in Public Relations from CPUT. I deserve so much better than having to write this crap. Morons.

Ian Ailing, the chairman of the Western Cape Hypochondriac Association was too unwell to meet with us in person, but briefly spoke to us from his sickbed:
“The City should have told us this before. We’re always on the lookout for things to blame our make-believe maladies on. Now they’ve made us all look even more silly. But look, if it wasn’t the water, then it must have been the vol-au-vents at Cynthia’s garden party on Saturday. I’m sorry. I have to go now. Literally.”

Did it rain?

No. Not really.

We were all excited as numerous weatherpersons told us that a cold front was going to hit Cape Town yesterday evening. And they weren’t wrong, but as cold fronts go, it turned out to be a bit of a damp dry squib. Thirty minutes of intermittent drizzle later, we all gave up and went back to whatever we were doing before: watching TV, being irritated by the beagle or… er… praying for rain.

To add to our misery, there are no further cold fronts – ineffectual or otherwise – or rain in the forecast for at least the next 10 days.
Cape Town apparently has about 100 days water supply left – something that’s now even making international news.
That’s a bit scary for a city of over 4 million people.