Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has advertised its first tender for the desalination of water as part of a R2bn initiative to produce an extra 500 million litres (Ml) for the drought-stricken city.
“Our intent is to both drive down collective usage to 500Ml per day and to ensure that there is always at 500Ml/day of water in production,” Mayor Patricia de Lille told reporters on Thursday.
She said the city had decided to take the most pessimistic view of the drought, and hoped to have the first desalination plant on line by the end of October.
The city had reduced water consumption from around 1000Ml a day in the past year to the latest figure of 610Ml a day. This was still too much, given the poor prospects of dams filling up anytime soon.
As of August 14, the average level of dams supplying the city was 31.1%, up 1.7 percentage points from the previous weeks. However, 10% of the dams' water was unusable, leaving average levels at only 21%.
There are currently severe water use restrictions in place, prohibiting the use of drinking water for anything other than cooking, drinking, and two-minute showers.
De Lille said the city had accepted it was no longer feasible to just wait for the rain. It had to start preparing for the “new normal” of regular water shortages because of climate change, and to stop relying solely on surface water.
The ambitious plan to produce the extra 500Ml would be rolled out in stages.
It would involve extracting groundwater from Atlantis, Silverstroom, the Cape Flats, Cape Peninsula and Hottentots Holland; desalination plants on barges in Cape Town Harbour; and desalination at land-based containers at Koeberg, Silverstroom, Woodbridge Island, Granger Bay, Hout Bay, Red Hill, Strandfontein, Monwabisi, and Harmony Park.
There would be water reuse programmes at Zandvliet, Belville, Fisantekraal, Potsdam, Cape Flats and Macassar waste water treatment works.
“Because of climate change, water scarcity, we need to understand that our days of water abundance are over,” said Craig Kesson, the city's resilience officer.
De Lille said the cost of the water procurement plans would be partly mitigated by money from the R1bn the city recently raised through its Green Bond, and by reprioritising planned projects.
The city's director of water and sanitation, Peter Flower, stressed that any desalination plants and groundwater extraction would be in line with environmental regulations.
De Lille said that, inevitably, there would be an increase in the price of water, but not this year.
There was also the possibility that level five restrictions could be introduced later.
She promised there would be no water-shedding. Some residents in high lying areas of the city might, however, have occasional supply problems because water pressure had been drastically reduced.
Next week, De Lille, her water resilience team, and local government MEC Anton Bredell would meet National Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyana to discuss the water use licences the city would need for its projects.