Cape town water crises — could Palmiet save us from day zero?
I write this article based on the contents of a single blog post, I wish I were writing it based on more information but all my attempts to acquire more information have been ignored or shut down so far. I can’t even get hold of basic fact like the current Kogelberg dam level.
As I feel this information is potentially incredibly important given the looming threat of day zero I have decided to publish it without further verification — in the hopes that somebody with more political clout than I might get hold of it
In late 2016 a very interesting research article was published by the “Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve” https://www.kbrc.org.za/news/desalination-future-cape-towns-water-needs/
Amongst other things this article explains the very interesting way in which the Palmiet pumped storage electricity scheme acts not only to generate electricity but also performs a much lesser known function of augmenting the Cape Town water supply, as a project that involves the DWS, Eskom as well as CoCT and/or WC government.
There are various complex ins and outs to it all but essentially during the rainy season excess water is (or can be) pumped out of the Palmiet river at the Kogelberg dam, via an intermediate dam (Rockview) and finally released into Steenbras from where it becomes a part of the CT water supply system.
There are various restrictions to this scheme:
1) The Palmiet river is part of a protected biosphere reserve so there are limits to how much water can be taken out of it.
2) If Steenbras is already full at the time that the excess water is available (when it rains) then the excess water cannot be transferred and instead flows to the lower dams in the river and/or the ocean.
In 2016; 12 508 444 cubic meters of water were apparently transferred in this manner.
Potential management issues?
A repeated theme during the current crises is that the City of Cape Town and/or WC government are very reluctant to accept any blame for the situation we find ourselves in.
Buried in this article is a small comment that is easy to skip past and seems insignificant but is actually incredibly interesting. The comment states that an estimated 10 million cubic meters of extra water could have been transferred in this manner in 2016, but were not transferred due to Steenbras dam already being full, it goes on to state that in terms of the overall supply this number is insignificant — but is it really?
The daily usage of CoCT currently stands in the region of 500 million litres, or 500 000 cubic meters. 10 000 000 / 500 000 or an extra 20 days of water at current usage, possibly more if we manage to get usage down.
In the context of the current crises this is potentially rather huge. There exists also the possibility (unable to verify) that similar may have happened in 2015 and/or 2017 as CoCT has seemingly being “strategically” keeping Steenbras full through this crises (More on this here http://www.capetown.gov.za/general/steenbras-dams). This is conceivably an extra 60 days of water that
might be available right now, more than enough to avoid day zero.
Steenbras is connected in various ways to other dams and there are various ways in which the load could be managed differently to avoid it being full, so one has to wonder why in 2016 when we were already in a bad situation in the middle of the drought, Steenbras was full at points in time when it could have been receiving additional water via this scheme.
If true this points to a potentially damning strategic blunder by the CoCT, it would be interesting to get more information on this to get to the bottom of it.
A possible solution for day zero?
With day zero looming we need all the solutions we can find even if they only buy us a few more days. In terms of the above information the following question comes up. What is the level of the Kogelberg dam right now?
I am unable to verify the level of this dam, it is strangely not on the DWS website, nor on the CoCT website.
The Kogelberg dam holds a potential 19 300 000 cubic meters of water, if (depending on levels) we could pump even 5 million cubic meters of water via Palmiet we could buy an extra 10 days with which to hold back day zero — Is this not worth considering?
Do you know more about this dam? If so please let me know!
Please share this far and wide, if there is even a small chance that this dam is even half full it’s something that should be at least on the discussion table, lets get this to somebody who can get the right answers to these question!
Lets keep pursuing possible solutions and defeat day zero through action, saving water alone is not enough.