Mamphela Ramphele misinformed about Cape Town water plans

Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Dr Mamphela Ramphele

Dear Dr Ramphele,

The City of Cape Town notes your concern regarding the so-called "halting" of desalination projects in Cape Town. However, you have been misinformed. Your column wrongly creates the impression that plans for such a permanent plant were under way but have since been shelved. 

The temporary desalination plants (Monwabisi, Strandfontein and Waterfront) are all operational and the water is being injected into the reticulation system. They were part of the City’s drought emergency response and are making good on the promise to deliver a reliable alternative water supply. The City’s latest Water Outlook document refers to the consideration of permanent desalination as part of Cape Town’s water mix going into the future, along with other sources. 

Cape Town is a growing city and desalination offers a drought-proof water source. As such, desalination is highly likely to form part of Cape Town’s future water mix. These small temporary desalination plants that are in operation are allowing the City to gain valuable experience with the technology, and will aid decision-making on larger-scale permanent desalination infrastructure that may be required in future.

Longer-term planning and assessment of Cape Town’s water augmentation strategy is under way which will guide future development in consultation with all concerned. We will soon make those plans available for public consideration.

The key to Cape Town’s water resilience will lie in the diversification of water resources, thereby making Cape Town less dependent on rainfall as the primary source of potable water. We have to consider ALL water sources in addition to the historical supply from surface water sources.

Key focus areas over the medium to long term:

-       saving water (water conservation and demand management): it is cheap and it makes sense. This programme will continue through ongoing communication, awareness and behavioural campaigns as well as our advanced pressure management programme which is saving almost 70 million litres of water per day as we create more pressure zones
-       water re-use 
-       groundwater extraction 
-       permanent desalination 
-       creating a water-sensitive city 

Regards,

Alderman Ian Neilson,
Executive Deputy Mayor, 
City of Cape Town

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