Water outage alert as CT to spend R3bn on augmentation

The city of Cape Town is scheduled to spend some R3 billion on water infrastructure “augmentation” – including desalination plants – as part of its “new normal” drought fighting strategy. The Mayor of Cape Town has warned that there could be water-shedding ahead. The Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly was at the mayor’s press conference

The mayor used her words carefully. She referred to “localised temporary water supply disruptions”. In other words, if the water situation gets really grim, some areas of the city would be switched off completely. “Some areas will be affected for short periods of time.” This would lead to “intermittent … disruptions”.

The city has already activated Phase One of water rationing through extreme pressure reduction, which the city dubs “throttling”.

The mayor asked that Capetonians store up to five litres of municipal drinking water, for only essential usage, but she warned that excessive storage would defeat the project of water saving.

“Any zoned outages will likely occur during peak water usage times in the mornings and evenings,” the mayor said.

Critical services like clinics and hospitals would be largely unaffected and mitigation measures would be put in place “if they experience intermittent water supply”.

Craig Kesson, the city’s chief resilience officer, said that the augmented supplies which were expecting to come online by December “if all goes according to plan” would cost about R3 billion. Budgetary non-essential items would be re-allocated to this service. Asked if the city had the money, he said: “Yes we have.”

Part of this augmentation will come from temporary land-based desalination plants in Nomwabisi and Strandfontein. This supply is expected to come on stream in February 2018. Other “augmentations” include water extraction from acquifers. The city was already increasing its supply from the Atlantis acquifer.

But the city is looking to foreign funders to assist with the extra water infrastructure and management cost load. The Cape Messenger asked the mayor about the potential external funding sources. She mentioned the Green Fund established after the COP21 in Paris. The city was also part of the 100 resilient cities movement as well as the C40 cities. “We are looking at the international sources of funding to help us to augment our water supply in the city.”

City officials explained that the city could move into Phase Two of the disaster management plan. “Phase Two is the disaster stage,” the mayor explained. During this phase the city would actively assume control over the daily water supply available to households and businesses, with more extreme rationing.

Even in this phase, however, strategic commercial areas, informal settlements and critical services such as hospitals would receive drinking water through normal channels.

A Phase Three would kick in if the city was “incapable” of drawing water from its surface dams. Drinking water would be sourced from ground water “abstractions” from various aquifers and spring water. Water would be distributed through water distribution points.

 

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