David’s Water Crisis Facts

Mythbusting. It’s a thing. Two middle-aged gentlemen in San Francisco famously made a living out of it. So step forward then David W. Olivier, who – right from the get go – is anxious for us to know that he:

does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

That article being this one, in which he rejects our reality and substitutes his own:

David has gone out on a bit of a limb here by using facts and relevant information to make his case. An approach that the Facebook hordes are unlikely to recognise. And if you read it through rather cynical eyes, it does appear as a bit of a City of Cape Town puff piece, but then you realise that maybe, just maybe, they have also been using facts and relevant information when informing us about the water crisis.


David hits us with truth bombs about the much alleged lack of preparedness:

Climate trends over the past 40 years gave no indication of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration. In fact, dams were overflowing in winter 2014. The weather forecasts gave no indication that the 2015 drought would continue over another year. A study by the University of Cape Town came out a few weeks ago, saying that the odds of the drought carrying over again into 2017 were less than one in one thousand.

He then goes in for a combination attack detailing the myths of lack of enforcement and water being lost to leaks, before a killer blow on the “why didn’t we build a big desalination plant?” debate:

A desalination plant large enough to accommodate Cape Town’s needs (450 megalitres per day) would cost 15 billion rand to build and then millions more to maintain.
There is a chance that by the time such a plant is built, the drought would be over. The city would be left with a very expensive white elephant.

And then, after a page or two of cold, hard realities, a single paragraph of reasoned opinion.

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together. The world is watching, let’s set them an example to follow.

How dare you, David? How very dare you?

Of course, as a Cape Town resident, you might feel that sharing this sort of thing might move some of the responsibility away from the city and onto your shoulders. And, if I may be so bold, that’s probably one very good reason that these myths have conveniently gone unchallenged and been perpetuated on social media, around braais, and on social media around braais.

Why not lead the way by breaking the cycle and when one of these Seven Deadly Myths [Really? – Ed.] gets quoted in your presence, give them a friendly nudge or punch in the face and tell them the truth?

It’s ever so liberating.

4 thoughts on “David’s Water Crisis Facts

  1. The article was a puff piece – fraught with error and misdirection.

    1. Estimates on deslaination cost overestimated by 10Billion
    2. Claims that the City did not know when head of water affairs in CT in 2009 highlighted that we would have a water crisis by 2017 unless we did something about it
    3. Quoting the same old tired CPT Airport data that does not seem to correlate with the rest of the country – I think maybe all the planes taking off and landing created a rain hole – pushing all moisture to the side. SAWB won’t give data – unless you pay through the nose for it and promise not to share. DWAF has not updated its rainfall trends since May (and the little data they have is not in synch with the airport data) – when you ask them about it they say they don’t do rainfall and refer you to 3 “scientists” who absolutely refuse to answer any queries by email.

    Those are the key ones – the others are just fluff.

    I would like to know more about the background of Dr Olivier – I don’t tryst the city or the DA – with the issue of water privatisation out there and the spin and nonesense that has been spewing from “official” sources about water and power leads me to believe that if they tell us the truth it is only if it suites their agenda.

  2. bengine > Lol. It appears that you arrived at this site from the biggest puff piece in recorded history.
    (http://capeinfo.com/blogs/beezus/2017/12/18/bucking-the-trend-in-the-drought/ for the record.)

    Dr David W. Olivier, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand

    So, I mean, I don’t know the guy, but from just his qualifications alone, we’re looking at an absolute minimum of 6 years+ of intensive study in the relevant area.
    Remind us about your qualifications please: particularly your studies on the “rain-hole” effect above the airport.

    I think the data from the airport correlate brilliantly with the completely empty dams surrounding the city. And getting the SAWS and the DWS in on the act so that there’s nothing to compare with is a stroke of genius. But I agree: more data (especially away from the rain-hole) are always welcome.

    I’d love you to explain how the oCT of Cape Town should have spent R20b or R10 (or however many billions) in 2009? (TOTAL City budget was R23.8 billion for the 2009/10 financial year) on a desalination plant, when the dams were full as recently as 2014. Or don’t you believe the dam level figures either?

    So, this is all just spin to push the privatised water agenda, is it? The DA and the Stellenbosch Mafia and all that?
    The cleverest bit of their plan was to stop it raining anywhere important for 3 years.

    Your tinfoil hat is slipping, dear.

  3. Oh goody idiot101. You used tin foil hat so already you are in the category of uninformed.

    Let me enlighten you a bit. First lets look at the rain hole. There is something in the English language called tounge in cheek – it is used fairly often by the more erudite language speakers and is generally understood when it is used by those with above average intelligence.

    Then the level of the dams – been there seen the dams – nowhere have I stated the dams are not empty but one must always be wary of bad thinking – the Politician’s syllogism is quite common among those that shout tin hat.

    Qualifications – ah there is the rub – we are so indoctrinated into thinking that because someone has them everything that spews from their mouths is gospel truth. For 1300 years people with qualifications thought the earth was the center of the universe – tried to solve complex maths equations to prove it and even after a Polish priest proved the solar system was helio centric it took almost 200 years for the “scientific community” to accept it. The point is that qualifications are useful but not infallible.

    As to the rainfall data: this is where it gets interesting because first getting this data is really difficult – the CPT Airport data is readily available but you want any other stations data and you have to pay (a lot). That was implemented back in 2002 – so we have to rely on data that has come from non SAWB sources – which (and I have 2 independent sources of this) show that rainfall in the last two years (while below average) was not “the worst recorded drought in 100 years”.

    Now we lets go look at DWAF’s rainfall data (which they have not updated since May) up to May the figures on their site are higher than CPT Airport. Rainfall recorded in July in the TWK catchment area was over 100mm. Apart from the main dams (Berg, TWK, Voelvlei, Clanwilliam) the smaller dams around Cape Town are full.
    Boschendaal Wine Farm recently planted 600,000 new trees. They water these from their own dam – in a recent report they had to open the sluices on the dam because it was overflowing. Steenbras (roughly same catchment area as TWK is full).
    Rivers are running, springs are running – what this points to is a water shortage not a drout and it suggests we don’t have all the facts.

    Costs, I followed up on the deslaination costs by mailing engineering companies that do this and received estimates from them – the costs quoted in the puff piece and by you are horribly overinflated. As for financing them the arguments put forward are ridiculous. These projects have the potential to finance themselves.
    R 5Bn for 450,000Kl / day at R 8 per KL (average of what we pay now) gives you 3,6M per day or R 1.3Bn per year – even with operating costs and interest at half that we pay back in 8 years.

    Head of planning for City bulk water recorded in 2006 that demand on the Berg river dam would exceed capacity by 2013. Noted at the same time that desalination costs were coming down and CT should consider it.

    This is all just the tip of the ice berg – there is much more when you start digging but you don’t do that do you – you go with your mainstream fed “brain” using spin that you have been fed and bad thinking to back you up and all you end up doing is coming across like a condescending prick.

    If you want to debate lets do it but don’t start with the insults and at least do some background research before coming here with your half backed nonsense.

  4. bengine > If I may, I’d like to begin with your last line first: “at least do some background research before coming here with your half backed [sic] nonsense.”

    This… this is my blog. I often come here. This is like you giving me permission to go into my own house. I’ll continue to come here irrespective of your allowing me. Thanks.

    Then, continuing with my backwards journey, many thanks for mentioning my iceberg idea ( http://6000.co.za/water-crisis-solved/ ) – it’s good to see that people still believe in that plan, but fewer thanks for calling me a condescending prick. “Don’t” – as someone so recent remarked – “start with the insults”, hey? (Despite the fact that you called me an idiot just three words into your comment).

    Rainfall in the dam catchment areas higher than at the airport? Thanks, Sherlock.
    Well, where do you think the pushed moisture from the rain-hole ends up?
    I’m just pulling your leg, obviously(?).
    There are mountains in the catchment areas, of course the rainfall is higher there. Why do you think they built the dams where they did? This isn’t pin the tail on the donkey stuff with a map.

    Just to get this clear – are you suggesting (and here I’m assuming that you are in Cape Town) that the amount of rainfall recently (i.e. last 3 years) has been… “normal”?
    Have you been drinking? (not water)

    Tell me again about the rivers that are running. Having driven around the Western Cape over the last few weeks, there seem to be very few rivers running. And those that are, are struggling. Farmers dams all over the Overberg are dry hollows.
    Even in the self-appointed Wettest Suburb In Cape Town, Newlands, the streams are dry.

    So – we are expected to take your opinion as Gospel, but to disregard those of any experts (at least those who disagree with you)? I’m a scientist, well-qualified (2 degrees + 1 Masters, 20+ years of experience in the lab) and while I love to listen to other people’s views (although never without checking their background), when they start to spout unproven BS and tell me that they know better, I can get ever so slightly pissed off. I didn’t study for years and years just for some ignorant nobody to tell me I’m wrong on a subject that I know inside, and then out.
    Spoiler alert: Your agenda has no impact on the facts.

    Of course, that’s in microbiology. I’m no internationally renowned sustainability expert like Dr Olivier ( https://www.wits.ac.za/gci/media/david-olivier-takes-top-honours-at-world-symposium/ ), but I’d imagine that he’s be a bit irritated by people dismissing his hard work simply because they think there’s some conspiracy to… to… do something.

    If “qualifications are useful”, again, I ask: what are yours in this regard?


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