A few months ago, the idea of towing an iceberg to help Cape Town’s water crisis would have been called ludicrous. Now, government has said they will look into the proposal to bolster the city’s critical water supply, provided they receive a detailed plan of the project cost.
South African marine salvage expert Nick Sloane, who is in charge of the project, now has a $130-million investor. Moving ahead, all he requires is a signed agreement by June 30 with the authorities to buy iceberg water.
According to Sloane, this would be the go-ahead for the project to start – meaning that the iceberg could then be captured in the southern ocean in December and towed back to to South Africa.
The estimated cost of iceberg water would be between R28 to R35 per kiloliter, or between 2.8c and 3.5c per litre. This is less than the cost from a short-term desalination project, which is between R52 and R57 per kiloliter.
“If we can get an 80-million ton iceberg and can harvest 70% of it, then we will get 150-million litres a day for a full year,” he said.
Last week, Sloane engaged in meetings with scientists, engineers, academics and government officials to explain the proposal. A follow-up meeting was held on Tuesday.
At the start of the meeting, he asked people what they think the success rate was of using an iceberg to generate clean drinking water? The response was less than a one percent chance – at the end of presentation they had changed their opinions to 70%-90% chance of success.
Sloane convinced them after he explained Swiss company, Water Vision, came on board as an investor – and that they believed in his project. The downside of the investment is that he has to find a buyer for the water.
The company’s vision is not only to make a profit out of a water shortage, but also to find solutions which will help society “in an unprecedented way”.
Head of water and sanitation for the City of Cape Town, Peter Flower, said the City of Cape Town did not want to speculate on the issue, and having an investor for the project is not the key factor.
“Matters pertaining to the regional water supply should be advanced through the national Department of Water and Sanitation,” he said.
Head of the Provincial Department of Water and Sanitation for the Western Cape, Rashid Khan, said they would take a look at Sloane’s proposal, but only once he had submitted the cost to both the City of Cape Town and the National department.
If the proposal is submitted and approved, Sloane would be working with French engineer Georges Mougin and Norwegian glaciologist Dr Olav Orheim to form the Southern Ice company.
The team plans to capture an iceberg in the vicinity of Gough Island, 2 700 kilometres south west of Cape Town, and tow it to the South African coast. Here it will be anchored 40 kilometers off the shore of Lambert’s Bay.
A saucer-like hollow will be excavated in the iceberg to collect melted water, which will then be pumped into tankers and discharged to a buoy mooring offshore from Koeberg. Thereafter, the water will be pumped into an undersea pipeline to be warmed and temporarily stored in a reservoir. It will then be pumped into reservoirs in Melkbos, and distributed from there.