Cape Town water crisis

Scientist predicts “a total system crash in March 2018” for Cape Town’s water supply

If the dam levels haven’t scared you, this should…

Cape Town water crisis

Look, we know you’ve been hearing a lot about the Cape Town water crisis, but this is pretty intense stuff.

In a Facebook post, Anthony Turton  has laid bare just how serious the water crisis is.

“Unless it rains in the next four months, then the water supply will literally collapse by March 2018,” Turton writes.

Using a number of graphs to illustrate his point, Turton notes the following:

The dataset attached shows dam levels since November 2016. Remember that the Western Cape is a winter rainfall area, so we are now out of the normal rainfall season entering the dry season with dams less than 30% full. But this only tells part of the story. The second graph shows the combined total of all dams in the Cape Town metro area since 2014 as the blue line, with useable water as the red line. Note the following:

1) Distinct seasonal cyclicity as rain falls in the winter followed by a dry summer.

2) Useable water is always less than dam levels, because of losses and other factors.

3) Each peak since 2014 has been lower than the previous peak, with a near linear downwards trend over the last three years.

4) Each trough follows a similar trend, being lower than the previous cycle.

5) The data stops in October 2017 (present date) on a high that is lower than all previous highs in this dataset, so extrapolating historic data into the future, we see a total system crash in March 2018.

cape town water crisis
Click on the image to enlarge

Turton warns that the situation is “dire”. Running out of water is a real possibility, and if that happens, all hell will break loose. It will cause a total system failure – specifically when it comes to disposing of sewage.

As Turton notes:

“Shopping centres cannot operate if they cannot flush toilets. Banks cannot have staff on the premises if they cannot use the toilet. Schools cannot operate if children are unable to remain hydrated and flush toilets (here the proxy is a school in Port Shepstone that was forced to send pupils home for the same reason).

“Hotels cannot provide for guests so the tourism industry fails. Hospitals cannot function so patients need to be transported elsewhere (here the most accurate proxy indicator is the Murchison Hospital near Port Shepstone where water supplies have failed). If a high-rise building should start to burn, then there is insufficient water to extinguish the flames (here the proxy is Braamfontein a year ago).”

Once that happens, there is a serious possibility of widespread disease breaking out. But now that we know how serious the situation is, Turton wants to know how we got here. He says the following questions are critical:

  1.  Why has national government (run by the ANC) not reacted to the data from the National Water Resource Strategy published two decades ago that stated, with a high level of confidence, that four water management areas would be in deficit by 2025, with the Berg River being one?
  2. Why have the Terms of Reference for any new solution been framed in a way that deliberately excludes desalination as an option?
  3.  On what technical basis has the sustainable yield of the Table Mountain Aquifer and other local groundwater resources been estimated?
  4. What plans do businesses have in face of the projected probability that unless there is a storm event of unprecedented magnitude – a natural disaster in its own right – they will have no more business after March 2018?

Turton answers some of these questions his post and urges everyone to reflect. However, he warns that we might have reached the point of no return.

Read Turton’s full post here.