Cape Town

Desalination for Cape Town – Numbers and Facts – South Africa

3. What about in South Africa?
In South Africa desalination is used quite widely by mines to clean up polluted mine water and acid mine drainage. Small to medium-scale desalination has also been used in coastal towns during times of drought. Six municipalities are currently using small-scale reverse osmosis plants to desalinate water for bulk water supply.

Mossel Bay has a medium size desalination plant capable of producing 15 million litres of potable water per day but the plant is currently on standby as the dams in the area are full. Standby mode requires continuous maintenance to keep the plant functional which costs the municipality money whilst not producing any water.
The Knysna municipality has a desalination plant capable of producing 2 million litres per day which is currently shut down for maintenance and repairs. During normal operation, the plant is used at the discretion of the municipality. Currently there is sufficient water in Knysna so use of the plant is minimised due to the high operational costs.
Plettenberg (Bitou municipality) has an operational desalination plant producing 2 million litres per day.
There are two desalination plants in the Ndlambe municipality, namely the Bushman’s River Mouth and Cannon Rocks plants, that produce 1.8 and 0.75 million litres per day respectively. Both plants are currently producing at full capacity.
The Cederberg municipality has a plant in Lamberts Bay with a capacity of 1.7 million litres per day (upgradable to 5 million litres per day); however, this plant is not operational yet as it is still newly developed.
Richard’s Bay has a desalination plant that was installed during the 2016/17 drought to provide the town with 10 million litres per day. It has been operating at an average rate of 6 million litres per day. The plant has had several problems, particularly cable theft, which has interrupted supply, and excessive pressure, which resulted in pipe bursts in the areas receiving water.
4. What desalination is in the pipeline for Cape Town?
Four of the seven augmentation projects that will bring new water online for Cape Town are desalination plants. They are based at the Waterfront, Cape Town harbour, Monwabisi and Strandfontein (the latter two on the False Bay coast). These are relatively small-scale operations. The City has been criticised for initially trying to bring on smaller and quicker plants to provide water during a Day Zero scenario as these are more expensive. At one stage we were going to bring in desalination barges. Barges have only worked successfully in more sheltered sea areas in the Red Sea and the Gulf. There is very little international capacity in this market at the moment, and this is currently not a viable option for Cape Town. Barges are also generally more expensive than land-based desalination.

5. So why aren’t we doing more desalination in Cape Town?
For arid and drought-stricken coastal cities, desalination can be an important source of water which is completely independent of local rainfall. However, desalination remains the resource of last resort for most cities because it is the most expensive. Desalination takes longer to bring online than drilling the shallower boreholes in Atlantis and the Cape Flats. Desalination would also be more cost-effective at larger scales between 150 to 200 million litres per day would be the best economy of scale for Cape Town.

6. What other constraints are there?
The availability of electricity is also a potential issue. Concerns have been raised in the United States that electricity supplies in local grids are not able to accommodate new desalination plants built in response to the Californian drought. South Africa is not long out of an electricity crisis. A further energy crisis at the same time as a water shortage would place this source at risk. Some plants overseas are starting to operate with solar energy, and this could be an option for Cape Town in the long-term. At the moment most of our energy is generated using coal-fired power stations and this means our energy generation puts a lot of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere which is a cause of climate change – which in turn would fuel future droughts.

9. How expensive is desalination compared to other water sources?
Globally desalination is between two to four times as expensive as most other sources depending on the relative cost of capital equipment (how much has to be imported etc), the cost of energy and the cost of labour to implement other water savings. By way of comparison the costs for Cape Town would be:

Raw surface water | between R1 and R4 per kilolitre
Alien clearing to release more water from our catchments | from R6 to R15 per kilolitre
New groundwater | around R15 per kilolitre
Reclaiming and re-using treated waste water | between R10 and R20 per kilolitre
Large-scale, permanent desalination | between R10 and R22 per kilolitre
Smaller, short-term desalination | R34 to R44 per kilolitre


Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) & Osmoflo winning bid for Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town -South Africa

The contract to provide an emergency desalination plant for the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town was recently awarded to Quality Filtration Systems (QFS) and Osmoflo. According to QFS the project, which will address the increasing water demands of the City of Cape Town region, will involve the supply, installation and commissioning of a fully containerised 2 MLD seawater reverse osmosis and multimedia filtration plant. This will be delivered under a rental contract to the City of Cape Town for a minimum duration of 24 months. With a tight completion schedule of 8 weeks, the plant is scheduled to be operational by March 2018. Herman Smit, Managing Director of QFS says the company has been following the City of Cape Town’s need to augment severely restricted potable water supplies and the collaboration between and Osmoflo on this project will help to bring fast relief to the severe water shortages in the area. “The V&A Waterfront desalination project feels like the culmination of years of promoting membrane equipment for the treatment of potable and waste water. It is satisfying to use our 21 years of experience to contribute to the Cape Town augmentation program for some relief during the drought,” he adds.


Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station turned on desalination plant

Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear power station today turned on its temporary mobile groundwater desalination plant, which will ease the pressure on the City of Cape Town’s water supply. “When the City of Cape Town called on the people of the Western Cape to address the water issue, we had to respond with a sustainable solution as a responsible corporate citizen,” Velaphi Ntuli, Koeberg Power Station manager said. Ntuli explained: “The desalination plant is part of Koeberg’s three-pronged water management strategy to address the current water shortages in the Western Cape while ensuring that the plant is able to provide safe and sustainable electricity. “This strategy includes reducing the power station’s daily water usage, keeping adequate on-site water storage and looking at alternative water supplies (groundwater and sea water).” He added: “To this end, we have saved approximately 115,000 kl since June 2017, compared to previous averages. This equates to the City of Cape Town supplying 10.5 kl of water to approximately 11,000 houses for a month. Our water tanks are kept full to cater for emergencies.” The Koeberg facility has a water storage facility on site, which acts as a buffer and enables the plant to run for two weeks in the event of a water shortage – this power station can only operate about two weeks without off-site potable water. The desalination solution was therefore quite important to ensure continuity of supply, the parastatal stressed. The temporary ground water desalination plant will produce 920m3/day. This water will be used for the plant’s process purposes, and human consumption in buildings and areas within the power station’s direct water reticulation network. It is worth noting that Koeberg saves 22 billion litres of fresh water per annum as its condensers are cooled by means of sea water – the brine (waste) is returned to the sea after use. The temporary desalination plant is developed under a Build Own Operate agreement between the utility and South African water treatment solutions firm, Veolia. According to utility sources, the contract is valid for a 12-month period from date of operation, with option to extend to 18 months. This should allow for enough time to bring the permanent plant online – expected to come into operation in Q1 2019. The parastatal said in a statement that the permanent ground water desalination plant will produce 1,440m3/day. This water will be used for process purposes and human consumption in the buildings and areas within the power station’s direct water reticulation network. (LINK)

Monwabisi desalination plant starting side preparation – Cape Town – South Africa

The Monwabisi desalination plant is one of seven projects earmarked as part of the first phase of the City of Cape Town’s Additional Water Supply Programme. Site preparation is currently under way. “It is anticipated that the Monwabisi plant will produce a total of seven million litres of drinking water per day which will be fed into the water reticulation system to supplement current supply from the dams and other water sources. “A nine-week construction period is planned for the completion of the first phase comprising two million litres. The first drinking water generated by the desalination plant is expected to be fed into the reticulation system by March 2018 with the second phase of five million litres to follow on after a further nine weeks. “The plant is intended to operate for a period of two years, based on a service agreement in which the city has agreed to buy water from the service provider Water Solutions Proxa JV. The value of the tenders for the establishment and operation of the desalination plant at Monwabisi for a period of 24 months is R260m,” said the city’s mayoral committee member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg. Other projects include the Strandfontein, V&A Waterfront, and the Cape Town Harbour desalination plants; the Atlantis and Cape Flats Aquifer projects; and the Zandvliet water recycling project which will collectively produce an additional 196 million litres per day between February and July 2018. In addition, the city has 12 projects at an advanced planning stage. “There will be minimal risks to public health and safety, and work will comply with the applicable national health and safety regulations. All construction areas will be clearly demarcated and will be off-limits to the public. Any pipe work that is not underground will be clearly marked. The plant has been designed to ensure fast-tracked construction and production but with the smallest possible construction footprint. “The city will monitor the site and regularly test the drinking water that is produced. We are proud that the plant in Monwabisi will be our flagship desalination plant. We are truly grateful for the support of the community leadership and residents in this area. They will be true partners in this exciting and necessary development,” said the city’s mayoral committee member for Area East, Councillor Anda Ntsodo. In addition, the Strandfontein plant site preparation is set to commence which will also produce seven million litres of water per day when in full production. The evaluation of a tender for a temporary desalination plant on East Pier Road in the V&A Waterfront is in its final stages. This plant is to be located in an open-air parking lot opposite the heliports, and will produce two million litres of water per day.

R95m reallocated to avert Day Zero Cape Town – South Africa

Cape Town – The Western Cape government has reallocated R95 million for resources and initiatives to avert Day Zero as the worst drought since 1906 grips the province.On Thursday, members of the provincial legislature debated the adjustment budgets for the provincial treasury, the Department of the Premier, local government and environmental affairs and development planning, economic opportunities and agriculture and cultural affairs and sport. MEC for Economic Opportunities, Agriculture and Tourism Alan Winde said R2m for water tanks for food gardens in the West Coast, Cape Winelands, Eden and Central Karoo districts had been reprioritised. An additional R10m for the installation of boreholes in rural areas has been budgeted for; R5m for clearing alien vegetation along the Berg River; R7.8m in drought assistance to research farms; and R2.5m reallocated to the water resilience project. MEC for Local Government Anton Bredell said the provincial government had plans for the worst. He added that some of the allocated money would also be used to plan for the upcoming fire season. “We have a plan in place. The budgets, although not enough, are there and we have done all we possibly can to avert the worst situation. We have a water plan signed off by the national Department of Water Affairs. We admit that so much more needs to be done, but we will not allow the taps to run dry. We are not going to leave our residents dry,” he said. The ANC rejected a R95 million adjusted budget for the drought crisis, along with other adjustment budgets debated. With the exception of the ACDP and EFF, the opposition ANC taunted and heckled as they tried to expose the failures of Premier Helen Zille’s office and the provincial government she runs. Richard Dyantyi, ANC MPL, said the money budgeted for the drought and upcoming fire season was way too little. “From a total budget of R55 billion you can only get about R100 million. That is scandalous. How can this amount of money ever be enough. The DA has been fiddling while Rome is burning, while the City is on the brink of collapse,” he said. Dyantyi also questioned how realistic the water supply targets of an extra 200 megalitres were when the desalination plants the City is constructing at the V&A Waterfront add 2 megalitres a day. “The only target in the City’s resilience plan which seems like an effort to add sufficient water into the system are the marine-based desalination plants at Table Bay Harbour and Gordon’s Bay, which together will add 200 megalitres a day. The completion date is, however, unknown,” he said.


Desalination: Cape Town’s solution to water shortages – South Africa

Minister of local government‚ environmental affairs and development planning in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell, says the province has been managing drought conditions in some parts of the region since 2010. “Three years of below-average rainfall have exacerbated the situation and despite proactive measures like the implementation of water restrictions and programmes to clear the Berg River of alien vegetation‚ the reality is we are faced with a dire situation.” Inspired by the Target 140 Campaign implemented in South East Queensland, Australia, Cape Town embarked on reducing water usage. So far residents’ water usage has dropped below 100 litres per person per day, making the City’s Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme one of the most successful water conservation projects globally – a fact recognised at the 2015 C40 Cities Awards in Paris. Mayor Patricia de Lille thanked Capetonians and commended them “for rising to the occasion to save more water in our City because we are determined that we will not allow a well-run City to run out of water”. The mayor told the media the City will run out of water by March next year, at current usage levels. Despite water restrictions and the water savings achieved, Cape Town still needs 450 megalitres of water a day. With no end to the drought in sight, the City has approved plans to build a desalination plant to turn salty sea water into potable water. Construction will begin in December at the V&A Waterfront, the first approved site. By February the plant will feed two million litres of water into municipal networks. The harbour site will allow the City to draw water from the harbour and pump the salt brine residue into the ocean. As David Green, V&A Waterfront chief executive officer, explained: “At peak we have about 7m tidal waves, which means that there is no issue in terms of marine life, the brine is cleared immediately.” The V&A plant is the first of a possible eight the City wants to build. Down from an original 17, the other sites include Dido Valley‚ Granger Bay, Harmony Park, Hout Bay‚ Monwabisi, Strand and Strandfontein. The plants will have a working life of two years and, it is hoped, will supply the City with up to 15 million litres of usable water a day…. (LINK)

Dams at 38.5%, desalination timeline remains unclear – South Africa – Cape Town

Total storage in the six major dams supplying Cape Town is down by 0.1% to 38.5% (pdf). That’s a loss of around 519-million litres — slightly less than the average day’s consumption in the city.

Cape Town’s dam levels

Leading the decrease was everyone’s favourite underperforming dam — the Theewaterskloof. The largest reservoir in the Western Cape again struggled to hold its level, dropping from 27.8% last week to 27.3% this. At the same point last year, it was 51% full. The Steenbras Upper Dam dipped to 100.4% — shedding 1% — while its Lower neighbour gained 1.1% overall.


Cape Town scales up water augmentation programme – South Africa – Cape Town

The City’s large-scale augmentation procurement programme involving desalination, aquifers and recycling, among others, is unprecedented in scale.Yesterday, the City initiated Phase 1 of its critical water shortages disaster plan, with water rationing under way as dam levels stand at 38.5% and useable water at 28.5%. The City said yesterday that the unprecedented procurement programme is under way to help supplement water supply during this drought crisis. It is foreseen that between 130 and 240 million litres a day will be at some stage of production between December and May 2018. This includes land- and sea-based desalination, water reclamation and groundwater abstraction projects, if all goes according to plan. City Mayco member for finance Johan van der Merwe said: “We are doing in months what it would usually take years to do.” Almost 7 000 water management devices have been installed by the City on the properties of delinquent water users. Where applicable, tenders related to the emergency augmentation programme are published on, in relevant local newspapers and the National Treasury’s e-tender portal.


“It is illegal to sell water” Water and Sanitation Department spokesman Sputnik Ratau said – South Africa – Cape Town


Meantime, with water rationing underway, and dire warnings of “day zero” when supply will run completely dry, enterprising profiteers are taking advantage of the shortage. Water restrictions, threats of prosecution and a sense of panic have some residents willing to pay for alternative water supplies for gardening, swimming pools and flushing toilets.

Water and Sanitation Department spokesman Sputnik Ratau said the government was the custodian or trustee of water resources, including dams, rivers, lakes, pans, wetlands and groundwater. “It is illegal to sell water. The only case in which water is sold legally is as bottled water,” he said. “Use of water without an authorization is a serious offence, which carries a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment or a fine.” (Times Live)

Yields in the region’s wine beverage market will be down as much as 25% to 50% next year according to two major industry players last week. A significant drop in yield on “an already unprofitable model”, means the industry will take a serious hit in 2018. The lack of rain during winter has left vines across the Cape without the required water reserves through summer (MoneyWeb).


Cape Town’s temporary desalination plants online ‘February 2018’ . South Africa – Cape Town

… After yesterday’s rains across the metropole, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille briefed media, and Twitter, on updates regarding its water resilience scheme. The scheme aims to “avoid a time when users do not have access to municipal drinking water”, de Lille explained. “In terms of our Water Resilience Plan to augment supply with schemes, we are expecting the first water to come online by Dec 2017 /Jan 2018,” she tweeted. The plan intends to add an additional 500-million litres per day to Cape Town’s water supply by using natural springs, aquifers, and desalination. The latter, however, won’t be ready this year. …