City of Cape Town creating an environmental disaster

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the DA-lead City of Cape Town’s  “10 Ways the City of Cape Town wants to drought-proof Cape Town” list. (Melanie Gosling News24 17 Feb 2019)

Who dreams up this stuff? Seriously? Who in the DA city council thought up this abhorrent, short-sighted, disaster-in-waiting? They should be fired.

We already know that the DA-lead City Council cares nought for anyone or anything but their own individual egos, based on their behaviour over the last 18-months or so, and the fact they allowed the city’s water crisis to get as far as it got in the first place, before extracting their thumbs from their posteriors and doing anything. They ignored decades-old advice and warnings and, when they sprang into ‘action’, their solution was to a squeeze Cape Town residents even harder with a Drought Levy, as if more money in the bank would miraculously make water gush out of our taps.  

Their shortsightedness was alarming  to say the least. Even had they taxed residents a billion rand it would not have helped delay Day Zero one second. They proved themselves incapable of prioritising meaningful and effective steps to alleviate the city’s water crisis in the short or long term and when we, the residents of Cape Town, saved the day (and their asses) by collectively responding to the crisis and cutting our water usage, the DA leadership behaved like Grade R kids, jumping up and down waving their arms and flicking their hands trying to attract the teacher’s attention because they know what 2 plus 2 is, to claim it was they who averted disaster. It was truly embarrassing and mortifying to realise these people are the best opposition available to try and stop, and call to account, the ANC.

With these ugly mind-pictures still an all-too-painful memory, reading Gosling’s report of the DA’s plans for the City’s water sent me into a state of utter despair for our city, country and our  environment. Does no-one on the CTCC understand anything?

Point 3 of the list ("Sewage effluent will be treated to drinking water standards") is something that should alarm every sane, rational person and environmentalist in Cape Town, South Africa and the world. And I call on Ms Gosling, Green Peace and every environmental activist and organisation to take the strongest possible action against the Cape Town City Council to force them to abandon this ill-conceived, stupid and dangerous idea from creating an environmental catastrophe.

The CTCC cannot be allowed to pump any water, treated or not, sewage or not, into the Cape Flats Aquifer. Not only is it extremely irresponsible, it is completely illogical too. The fact that this proposal has got this far and seen the light of day and been released to the media proves that no-one in the CTCC has thought this through clearly or logically. They have all just gone with the quickest, easiest fixes with no thought or care given to long-term implications or consequences.

It’s illogical because they talk about drawing water from the aquifer and replacing it with treated sewerage-water. The question they don’t answer is, Why? The Cape Flats Aquifer should only be harvested in cases of extreme emergency and otherwise left untouched. Instead of drawing water from the aquifer, pump the treated sewerage water directly into the city’s water supply and cut the aquifer out of the loop.

If the water is treated properly there is no harm in using it for human consumption and many cities around the world share jokes about the water you drink having passed through x-number of people. But under no circumstance should this water be pumped into the aquifer. No matter how clean the water is, it will not be the same pristine water as found in the aquifer and, more importantly, vitally, with South Africa’s record of non-maintenance of sewerage works around the country, it will only be a matter of time before some unaccountable city employee, overseen by some unaccountable city councillor, will not do their jobs properly and, before we know anything has gone wrong, millions of litres of raw toxic sewerage water will have been pumped into the Cape Flats Aquifer, poisoning it for eons to come. Mark my words, if the CTCC goes ahead with this irresponsible and irrational idea, such a disaster WILL happen. In South Africa it is inevitable.

Logically, if all the sewerage water in Cape Town was treated, it should supply all the city’s water needs (and more) not only to drink, wash and survive but to flourish too. Think about it. It would be recycling in its most relevant and sustainable form and this is where the city should be focusing their efforts and resources.

The Cape Flats Aquifer should be revered and protected and used only in extreme circumstances and only for as long as necessary. When it is used, its water levels should be strictly monitored and be allowed to replenish itself over time and, when and if, water needs to be pumped into the aquifer to replenish its levels, only evaporated or distilled water can be allowed into it.

Tragically, we know the DA does not listen to its residents. (They will get a shock in May but that's another story). This decision will be made based on which city council connection is going to make how much profit from plundering a resource that no one should be allowed to touch.

The Cape Town City Council cannot be allowed to continue with this harebrained idea. I implore all environmentally aware activists and organisations to use whatever power and influence they have to force the CTCC to shelve the idea of using treated sewerage water to replenish the Cape Flats Aquifer and to bestow upon the aquifer some kind of protected status to ensure, it's resources are used wisely, responsibly and sustainably and it survives for millions of more years.

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