Cape Town was founded in 1652 because of water. The search for more water for its expanding population has dominated its history ever since. Recently, it has become rather desperate.
In March, flying from Cape Town to Joburg, I was frightened to see the low levels of the dams supplying the city. The Dutch, looking for a refreshment station for their ships, chose Table Bay rather than Saldanha – a better harbour – because it had fresh water.
At first it was supplied by the little rivers flowing down from Table Mountain.
Then they built dams on the mountain. In the 20th century, dams were built far out of the city. The last was the Berg Dam, built in 2007. It is not enough.
Good rainfall in years before 2015, made Cape Town’s managers complacent about its water. Population increase exceeded the increase in water supply.
Then came the 2016 El Nino, a natural disturbance of water temperatures in the Pacific.
The Western Cape plunged into drought, which has not ended. It is scientific nonsense to blame this on “climate change”, the belief that mankind is changing the climate in a dangerous way.
SA, mainly arid, has experienced droughts for as long as we know. There was a drought in Cape Town in 1663. We must learn to use water responsibly.
The essential use of water, for drinking, constitutes a tiny proportion of the average household’s water bill.
If water were only used for drinking, Cape Town’s dams would suffice for a thousand years.
But we use far more for washing, flushing lavatories, watering gardens and filling swimming pools.
All of this could easily be reduced with proper management. Personally, in my Cape Town house, with no pool, the water usage is 200 litres per person per day. I could easily reduce this.
My borehole supplies my garden water and could probably provide all of my other water. I could shower rather than bath. I notice that the simple council water meter in front of my house is very accurate and can pick up the smallest leak.
There is no technical reason that big leaks that are wasting vast quantities of South African water could not be detected too, and remedied.
We don’t need fancy, expensive solutions such as desalination. We just need better water management.