The City of Cape Town asked national government to delay building a desalination plant while it explored access to available groundwater, according to Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane.

Mokonyane was briefing the Cape Town Press Club on government’s response to the water shortage in the Cape. Suspended mayor Patricia de Lille confirmed on Twitter that she wrote the letter after consulting her team of experts in the City’s Department of Water and Sanitation.

In the letter De Lille said various water augmentation programmes were being assessed and as a result the City would decrease its reliance on desalination. In the letter De Lille also asked if government would consider alternative locations for the proposed sites.

“In light of our renewed approach it is our request that the implementation of this request is delayed to make allowance for a thorough examination of ground water options to be completed. Furthermore, considering the high cost of desalination, we would also like to inquire as to whether alternative sites could be considered for this desalination plant, such as False Bay or Koeberg,” the letter read.


The second half of the letter.


On Sunday, Mokonyane said: “Following our continuous engagement with the City of Cape Town led by mayor Patricia de Lille and her team … We issued a directive to the Umgeni Water Board for a 10 mega litre desalination plant for the emergency intervention for the City of Cape Town.”

“In the course of affect this directive we then were also informed late last year that the city has requested that we stop the implementation of a desalination solution so that they can access the groundwater availability,” Mokonyane said.

Mokonyane continued: “Through the water resilience committee, the last meeting was held last week where even this response from the city will be considered. We believe no option should be put aside. We need to work on it, in the same way we have done in KwaZulu-Natal and in Nelson Mandela Bay.” “We must allay the fears of South Africans,” Mokonyane said. “Day Zero can be avoided if all of us become positive and move beyond politics and appreciate that the realities of climate change are upon us. “It’s not in throwing in money that the solutions will be found. We need to adapt; we need to prioritise, but most importantly, we need to adapt.”

Mokonyane said a four-pronged strategy is being implemented, which includes desalination, groundwater optimisation, water conservation and demand management and reuse optimisation.”

“We need to ensure that all water users in Cape Town have more information on how to save water, especially at household level, given that 70% of water is being used domestically.

“We need to ensure that everyone understands their role in saving water and that we don’t place individual interests ahead of the rest of society.”

  • The Cape Flats and Atlantis aquifers should be ready to pump 25 megalitres (ML) by May, while the Table Mountain aquifer will be able to provide another 40ML by latest June.
  • Newlands Albion spring and Oranjezicht springs have been rerouted to the system to provide 4ML.
  • The department granted approval for three water use licences for groundwater programmes, in Steenbras, Cape Flats and Oranjezicht springs.
  • Water re-use points at Zandvlei and the Cape Flats will be ready by June 2018. The Macassar, Potsdam and Athlone points will only be ready by 2019.
  • In the medium term (after day zero), there will be extra pumping at Dasbos pump station, a transfer of water to Eikenhof Dam to Steenbras Dam and a desalination plant will be erected “sometime this year”.

Picture: GCIS

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