The city’s catchment area normally gets most of its rain in winter, yet winter is almost over – and dam levels currently stand at only about half of what they were last year, which even then was below 50%.
So why doesn’t someone use their brains and combine two of the developments that have massively decreased in price over the last 10 years – photovoltaic power and desalination plants?
I’m no expert in this field but the last figures I saw from about 5 years ago was that drinkable water made by desalination plants from seawater cost approximately 5 times as much per litre as municipal water. I would guess that this cost will have dropped significantly by now due to improved technology in reverse-osmosis plants.
Of course, the really big cost factor hindering the use of desalination plants has been the high cost of Eskom’s electricity. So now why doesn’t some consortium get together and make use of one of South Africa’s prime assets – sunshine – and erect a massive bank of PV panels to supply most of the power for desalination plants?
The installation cost of PV electricity has declined by two thirds over the last 20 years, due partly to the mass-production of solar panels but also to the much-reduced price of the inverters required to convert DC voltage to 220V AC voltage.
And to counter Cape Town’s fluctuating weather patterns, why then shouldn’t wind turbines be also added into the energy mix? I am 100% certain that this combination would drastically reduce the cost of producing pure drinking water from seawater – a commodity which is certainly not lacking in Cape Town.
So why, just why, doesn’t someone get off their backside and get going on this? Before severely restricted municipal drinking water is reduced to 10 litres per citizen per day, and costs more per litre than petrol?