sewage desalination

All that poop in Cape Town’s water might cause problems for desalination

That gives a whole new meaning to being up shit creek.

sewage desalination

It’s going to be a heck of a hot week in Cape Town. Not good news for the dams. Especially not with tourist season now in full swing.

While the City of Cape Town is working hard at solutions to help prevent day zero, scientists are freaking out just a little. Desalination is one of the main solutions touted to the problem. But it is expensive. And complicated. And, as it turns out, also possibly problematic.

If you don’t know this already, all our poop gets pumped into the ocean. And this is an issue.

You see, 36 million litres of sewage gets pumped into the ocean every day. This is all treated with chemicals and scientists have warned that caution is needed when treating sea water.

TimesLIVE reports:

A team led by Professor Leslie Petrik, of the environmental and nano-science group at the University of the Western Cape, writes in the December edition of the SA Journal of Science: “It is probable that the water recovered from desalination may still be contaminated with traces of complex pollutants after the reverse osmosis [desalination] process. This probability represents a public health issue.”

Team member Lesley Green said: “None of us would like the results of our lab tests to be what they are in the context of this crisis.”

Gross. And to think we’re splashing around in the tidal pools like everything is cool.

The City of Cape Town, however, remain confident that everything will be cool. Xanthea Limberg, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for water and waste services said:

“The water produced from desalination will be tested daily for conformance with the standard,” Limberg said.

“Complex chemical pollutants will not be present in sufficient quantities to place the public at more risk than they would be just living in an urban environment where these chemicals are freely used.”

But the scientists aren’t budging. They also analysed limpets, mussels, sea urchins, starfish, sea snails and seaweed for evidence of pollutants. They found high levels of chemical compounds that provided evidence of long-term exposure.


They warned that these findings are an indication of ‘faecal pollution of the shoreline’ and that there are other chemical substances likely lurking in the water.

Gives a whole new meaning to up shit creek with no paddle.

Read the full story on TimesLive.