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Cape Town Is Less Than 90 Days From Running Out Of Water

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  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 07:01am


    Adam Taggart

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    Cape Town Is Less Than 90 Days From Running Out Of Water

A major world city (population: 4+ million) is less than 90 away from completely running out of water. From CNN:

In less than 3 months, a major international city will likely run out of water

In Cape Town, South Africa, they're calling it "Day Zero" — the day when the taps run dry.

A few days ago, city officials had said that day will come on April 22. This week, they moved up the date to April 12.
Cape Town is South Africa's second-largest city and a top international tourist draw. Now, residents play a new and delicate game of water math each day.
They're recycling bath water to help flush toilets. They're being told to limit showers to 90 seconds. And hand sanitizer, once somewhat of an afterthought, is now a big seller.

"Unwashed hair is now a sign of social responsibility," resident Darryn Ten told CNN.

The genesis of the crisis

So how did this happen? How does a major city in the developed world just run dry?
It's been a slow-motion crisis, exacerbated by three factors conspiring together:
Even with the predicament they find themselves in, residents haven't dropped their water use significantly, said Patricia De Lille, Cape Town's mayor.
The city has lowered the water pressure in their mains to help stretch the water supply. But usage is still 86 million liters above its target goal.
"It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero," a statement from the mayor's office said. "We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them."

Click here to read the full article.

And below is a drone video showing how dire the situation is at Theewaterskloof dam, Cape Town's largest reservoir (click full screen for better viewing):


  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 08:22am



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    Water, water everywhere.

In a previous article I wrote that the world had 74 years of oil left at current levels of consumption and new discoveries (1707 bb reserves, 30 bb per year consumption and 7 bb per year of new oil discoveries)

Cape Town is in a similar situation with water. 90 days of water left at current levels of consumption and rainfall.

If they get no rainfall, will the path to zero follow a Gaussian curve (gradually going down to zero) or a Seneca curve (a plateau followed by a sharp decline to zero as people initially hoard water and fail to moderate consumption until overtaken by reality)

Or will they be saved by technology?

  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 10:10am



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    Water denial

Last June I spent a month in my old home town of Cape Town, and witnessed a fascinating actual climate change event.   On three occasions the weather forecasters predicted with some certainty that normal seasonal rain, which would have a significant impact on dam levels, was about to fall as a succession of big depressions moved towards the Cape across the Atlantic.   The town was already deeply into the water crisis, so there was much excitement as the huge moisture-laden fronts visibly approached land and then inexplicably went South and skirted the land to disappear into the Southern Ocean.  After the third one did this people realized that the climate had changed.

While in Cape Town I spent most of my time with family and friends who are mainly academics, and most of the conversation was about rainfall, climate, water storage, reduction of usage, desalinators, aquifers, boreholes, political ineptitude and a bit of electric vehicles and recycling. But, in the hundreds of hours of discussion I never once heard anyone ask the question; “What actually happens in a city of 4 million people when the taps run dry?”  No one knows yet, but as Day Zero approaches I think that someone will ask the question.  The mind boggles at what the answer might be, but at least there is plenty of warning.

  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 12:30pm



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    They should buy bitcoins

That’ll fix it.


  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 01:29pm   (Reply to #4)


    Chris Martenson

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    The Fed can fix this

Rector wrote:

That’ll fix it.


If that doesn’t work, just have the Fed or ECB toss a few more trillion into bonds, and then sell some gold and silver.

That seems to be their go-to plan for fixing just about everything.  

After the excellent economic growth returns, and more, more more(!) of everything is being bought, then the reservoirs should magically refill.

At least that’s how cargo-cult economic practitioners like Yellen and Draghi seem to think things actually work.

After World War II anthropologists discovered that an unusual religion had developed among the islanders of the South Pacific.

It was oriented around the concept of cargo which the islanders perceived as the source of the wealth and power of the Europeans and Americans. This religion, known as the Cargo Cult, held that if the proper ceremonies were performed shipments of riches would be sent from some heavenly place. It was all very logical to the islanders. T

he islanders saw that they worked hard but were poor whereas the Europeans and Americans did not work but instead wrote things down on paper and in due time a shipment of wonderful things would arrive.

The Cargo Cult members built replicas of airports and airplanes out of twigs and branches and made the sounds associated with airplanes to try to activate the shipment of cargo.


Ha ha!  Those silly islanders!

Now that we’re sophisticated and know better, we understand that proper monetary practices are what make wealth appear!

And everything else follows after wealth, including water.  If you have enough wealth, the water problem can be solved somehow.


  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 02:35pm



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    Sao Paulo

About a year ago a similar situation was unfolding in Sao Paulo. Then the story disappeared. Does anyone know what happened? Did they get enough rain to resolve the problem?

  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 05:53pm

    Cariolian Starfighter

    Cariolian Starfighter

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    Pooping into drinking water

Maybe we should stop pooping into our drinking water, and instead turn human “waste” into valuable compost.  Not the entire solution of course, but we’re going to need a push for first world cities to stop wasting fresh water.

  • Thu, Jan 25, 2018 - 11:13pm



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    re cariolian starfighter

I logged in just to give your comment a thumbs up!  What a novel concept!  Since I’m already logged in I guess I’ll soap box a bit too.

Here’s my four step plan for fixing the water crisis.

1. Stop pooping in it (well said cariolian starfighter!)

2. Stop toxic run off from ag, industry and idiocy. (When I was in India last year a cab driver stopped on a bridge to throw a bag of trash into the river.  I looked down and couldn’t see the water past all the gently flowing blue trash bags).

3. Leverage existing water smart technologies in ag and industry (drip irrigation, aquaponics, in house effluent recycling, etc.)

4. Reduce the impact of climate change by reducing the distance goods have to travel from production to consumption. Re-localize our economies (bonus, people can live more meaningful lives too!).

  • Fri, Jan 26, 2018 - 04:57am



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    Nor any drop to drink

I can empathise with Capetonians, as I lived through Australia’s Millennium drought (roughly 2000–2010). It was heartbreaking to watch a succession of rain-bearing weather fronts approach the coast only to slip demurely to the south and leave us parched. Or if rain did come, it was usually followed by hot winds which evaporated away the precious rain.  %$#@! For 10 years the old pattern of streams of clouds spanning the continent from coast to coast was simply absent.

At one stage the mud at the inland part of the Murray River outlet into the ocean almost had the pH of battery acid: less than 2. It was dangerous to touch with bare skin.

In urban areas a lot of water-saving innovation in gadgets and management methods was spurred, and a lot of this has become a permanent part of urban and rural water management. One’s income level of course has a major bearing on how one can respond to drought.

In urban areas, home water tanks were encouraged and subsidised (I installed 3, total about 13 kL), greywater systems were developed and widely installed (me too; still in use), bore (ground) water became common for the likes of golf courses and parks (not me). A lot of homeowners got rid of their thirsty lawns and replaced them with xerophytic natives or woodchips (I went to woodchips and wicking beds).

It helped that dual-flush toilets were already common. If you don’t have a dual flush loo, then ways to save water include (1) putting a brick in the cistern to reduce the amount of water needed to fill it. (2) If you’re worried about bricks and porcelain, then get a 1.25L soft drink bottle, fill it with water, put the cap on tightly, and put that in your cistern. (3) “If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” (4) Use water salvaged from the bath or shower. (5) Run a line from your emptying water tank into the toilet cistern.

One town near here, Goulburn, got down to 5% capacity. The state government was planning to bring water in by tanker train, but the drought broke before that was needed. Just as well; water is very heavy and very expensive to move around. A pipeline to Goulburn was mooted but even that would have been hugely expensive.

I don’t know if the desal plants in Sydney and Melbourne are still in use. They were rather ridiculed at the time and I can’t see why.

In Oz in the main everyone co-operated and followed the community rules. It was good to see that in a long emergency people CAN pull together.

Of course, once the drought broke, it was back to BAU and new outbreaks of growthitis everywhere.

I wish Cape Town well.

  • Fri, Mar 16, 2018 - 07:20pm



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    Water shortage to affect City’s finances

I was just curious what was going on here (WRT water issues).  There are a couple interesting articles, IMO.  Homepage is .  No surprise that no water will lead to reduced income from water charges.  Search for “water” at the site to see other articles that may be of interest.

Mazibuko said Cape Town was in the unprecedented position of a major city facing the day when the municipal water supply would have to be turned off.

He said the City’s operating would be directly affected, because 10percent of it was derived from water charges.

“If Day Zero is triggered and the supply is switched off in 2019, the operating and administrative costs of distributing emergency water supplies will place further pressure on the City’s budget, which is already expected to see a drop of 5% in operating revenues in the 2018 fiscal year.”

The report said the 2019 fiscal year would be challenging for the City if Day Zero occurred.

It added that all of the city’s economy would be affected by the crisis and that Cape Town was a major contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), generating nearly 10percent of the total in 2016.

The report said while a short-term crisis might not have a significant impact on tourism, the industry could face a significant decline if it extended to six months or longer and added that the city’s initial response to the crisis has been slow.

It said Cape Town would need to raise its capital and operating expenditure on water supply and water management and Moody’s estimates that capital expenditure related to water and sanitation infrastructure could be between R8billion and R12.7bn over the next five years.


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