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By Melanie Gosling Environment Affairs Cape Times
Capetonians could be drinking desalinated seawater in four years’ time when our growing demand for water will have exhausted current supplies.
And because desalination is expensive, the cost of Cape Town’s water will increase.
This emerged at a pre-budget briefing yesterday where Water and Environment Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said her department was “forging ahead with unconventional supplies” of water, which included desalination of sea water in coastal towns.
“My view is that desalination must be seen as one of the sources for water supply… We have a coastline of 3 000km. We don’t have enough water and we are facing climate change. “So in future this is a technology South Africa will need,” Sonjica said.
The Berg River was the last available river in the Western Cape that could be dammed to provide water for the city.
But the Berg River Dam, the newest of the province’s dams, will meet Cape Town’s growing water demand only until 2014.
Asked what the plans were to augment Cape Town’s supply after 2014, Sonjica said this would be addressed in the national water review strategy.
Sonjica’s deputy director-general, Cornelius Ruiters, added: “One of our options for increasing supply to Cape Town is desalination. This will increase the cost of water, but is the only viable option.”
He said Water Affairs was in discussion with the City of Cape Town about the best option for desalination plants to supply the city, “and the cost implication for the City of Cape Town”.
Ruiters said the department was also looking at using water from Voelvlei Dam, and using more water from the Breede River.
“Using underground water from the Table Mountain aquifer is also an option,” he said.
Sonjica said studies suggested that South Africa was using less than 30 percent of ground water resources.
Referring to the dedicated environmental courts that her department wanted to establish to prosecute environmental crimes, Sonjica said they would begin running as a pilot project next month.
“Four in total have been approved for now,” she said. One of these would be in the Western Cape.