Remember when we were told that Capetown SA’s water crisis was due to climate change? Never mind.

Back on March 1st, 2018 we were told this: Cape Town’s water crisis shows the reality for cities on the front line of climate change

Today, a scant few months later, thanks to NASA’s Earth Observatory, we hear: Cape Town’s Reservoirs Rebound

After nearly running dry six months ago, Cape Town’s reservoirs have risen dramatically. Rain has poured down on southern Africa on several occasions in recent months. According to Cape Town’s Department of Water Affairs, water levels in the city’s main reservoirs stood at 55 percent of capacity on July 16, 2018.

Animation. July 1, 2015 – July 9, 2018

The largest reservoir—Theewaterskloof—holds 40 percent of Capetown’s total water storage capacity, so the state of that reservoir serves as a good barometer for the amount of water available to the city. The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquires new imagery of the reservoir every two weeks.

The animation above, based on Landsat imagery, shows the condition of the reservoir at two month intervals between 2015 and 2018. Parts of the reservoir with standing water appear dark blue; areas where the bottom of the reservoir was dry and exposed are light blue. The pair of natural-color images below, captured by OLI, show the change in water levels at Theewaterskloof between July 22, 2017, and July 9, 2018.

Water levels changed changed significantly between 2015 and 2018. While Theewaterskloof was 55 percent full in 2015, it dropped to 40 percent capacity in 2016 following a year of light rainfall. As the drought worsened, the reservoir shrank to 20 percent capacity by July 2017 and 13 percent by January 2018. With the arrival of heavier rains in April 2018, the reservoir bounced back to 40 percent capacity by July 16, 2018.

In June 2018, Cape Town authorities credited voluntary water conservation by residents, water use restrictions and tariffs, the installation of a city-wide pressure management system, a leak repair program, and the favorable rains for averting Day Zero, when most of the taps would have been shut off. Despite the recent increase in water stored in the reservoirs, the city plans to keep water-use restrictions in place until reservoirs are 85 percent full.


NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Adam Voiland.

Advertisements

97 thoughts on “Remember when we were told that Capetown SA’s water crisis was due to climate change? Never mind.

  1. The lack of infrastructure planning for population growth by the corrupt government officials is the primary cause of the lack of water in Cape Town. It will happen again unless water storage infrastructure is expanded and required maintenance undertaken of existing infrastructure.

    • The town is a magnet. Two-percent growth per year. The city should have been preparing over twenty years ago, and tripled up it’s water storage.

    • … required maintenance undertaken of existing infrastructure.

      That’s a problem all over the place. Politicians would rather spend money anywhere else rather than maintenance.

      With regard to corruption … It sounds like anyone who can bail out of South Africa is doing so. 2008 story, 2017 story

      The political situation is what it is but it sounds like the major thing driving emigration is that people are worried about their personal safety. crime in South Africa

      • “Politicians would rather spend money anywhere else rather than maintenance.”

        That’s true. Here in Toronto, we get a new fancy park every year. Not complaining, but there is a multi-year backlog on repairing our current parks.

        Politicians simply won’t show up to cut the ribbon on a repaired toilet.

    • So the three-year drought didn’t happen, or it had little to do with the water crisis?

      “The cause of the water crisis in the Western Cape was the extreme drought that exceeded the planning norms of the Department of Water and Sanitation, which is responsible for the planning of all surface and ground water supplies. It is believed water scarcity, caused by an extreme drought, was exacerbated by population growth, agriculture, invasive species, and inadequate response to imposed restrictions. The population of Cape Town has grown by 50 percent in the last decade.[15] In the same period the City’s measures to reduce demand (including tariffs, pressure management, fixing leaks and publicity) have partially decoupled water use from population growth.[16]

      “A study conducted by the Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town ran statistical analyses to determine that rainfall between the years 2015 and 2017 was very rare and severe.[17]”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Town_water_crisis

      • Yes, a 3-year drought is a problem. But this is routine in that area of the world, and indeed, in many areas (my own state included). If you do not prepare for significant weather events, you will feel the pain.

        • Drought is routine, but I don’t think its severity was routine. I’ve seen estimates that it was a 1 in 400 years drought. That’s why people (not just the media) were associating it with climate change. This is a major problem in the AGW battle: alarmists often connect any bad weather with climate change, while skeptics say all bad weather is due to natural variation. Both ignore the statistics and trends (or lack thereof).

          • One in 400 year events happen on average every year if there are 400 possible ones. Saying it’s a one in 400 year event is meaningless by itself.

  2. I knew the water crisis was over when Cyril Ramaphosa became president: he had just built himself a fabulous mansion in Cape Town. The ANC has previously wanted the nonANC Western Cape to fail and failed to approve and implement water delivery projects. The Municipality in the meantime has hiked water tariffs stratospherically and I wonder if they will ever come down again.

    • I happened to be present in Cape Town when the rains started in April and it was a sweet day. Because it doesn’t rain in summer (hardly ever) storage is essential.

      The tariff issue is interesting. A water supply involves a fixed overhead, obviously, of pipes and people. The ‘save water’ campaign was so successful that the income from water sales fell through the floor. They had no choice but to increase the price, not to provoke savings, but to avoid bankruptcy.

      There is a parallel with electricity saving. If people really cut back, ESKOM would be in deep trouble too.

      With all the restrictions gone and sales booming again, the water administrators will have to invest in additional storage, which is a good excuse not to lower the price. Those with money will fill the swimming pool again, others will apply their new-found water management skills. Climate change will be blamed for the inevitable flooding that lies ahead.

      The summer rainfall region, which is most of the rest of the country, will have a drought in 2021 because that cycle is metonic in origin. That too will be blamed on global warming, which it wasn’t in 1983 because, well, it wasn’t “a thing” in those days.

      • Restrictions have not yet been lifted. Level 6b is where we are and water over 12 cu m. a month is billed at $80 a cu.m. The City management says it won’t lift restrictions and insane pricing till the dams are 85% full which is quite ridiculous but then the management isn’t very good as this crisis has shown.

      • Seems to me there is a difference between the normal drought cycle that the city took into account in its planning, and the extreme drought it experienced.

        • Kristi, a 3-year drought isn’t extreme. Any engineer worth their salt will tell you that all plans should be able to bear a 100-year event. If I recall, a 3-year drought occurs every 20-30 years in South Africa. Not being able to deal with it is negligence.

          • Ben, have you looked into the nature of this drought, or are you assuming it’s the norm? I know drought is a regular, cyclic thing in S.A. The figure I saw was a 1 in 400 years drought. …Oh, another figure is 1 in 300 years – still way over 1/100. Very hard thing to calculate statistically, especially in retrospect (e.g., when did it start?), which is one problem in assessing whether droughts are getting more common and/or severe. Even the definition of “drought” varies. It’s not just the length of a drought, but it’s severity that is important. Sun, heat, low humidity and wind dry out soil and dry up reservoirs, so an increase in any of those will worsen a drought even if the amount of rainfall or the length of time without it stays the same.

            Cape Town has been working on their water infrastructure and water use for more than a decade to try to keep up with population growth. The story I have read (multiple sources) was that they were planning with historical droughts in mind, and that’s one reason the recent one became such a crisis. The national government also didn’t act responsibly in their release of water to agriculture.

            I know one can’t believe everything one hears, but the balance of evidence is on the side of “extreme and severe.”

  3. As South Africa devolves into political chaos with land and housing appropriation, more climate change will occur to disrupt the country and lead it into anarchy.

    • The land expropriation will be done without compensation. The government, Mr Ramaphosa himself, has said that it will not effect black owned land.
      The number of commercial farmers has already fallen from over 60 000 a decade ago to under 30 000 now. 15 000 of those remaining farmers are negotiating with Russia to go there and set up farming ventures.

      The Australian government is discussing issuing fast track visas to South African farmers as they are seen as being politically persecuted.

      Today South Africa is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth and Mr Obama was here saying lovely things in a lovely way. He complained of him having too much money and how we must be wary of lying corrupt politicians. The unemployment rate is around 40% and the infrastructure is collapsing.

      Go Rainbow Nation \o/

    • I studied Durban rainfall 1875 to 1980 and found a 66-year cycle with sub-multiple of 22 years. The integrated predicted curve followed WM shape. Similar pattern was seen in Mahalapye in Botswanawith 60-year cycle with sub-multiples of 30, 20 & 10 years; and Catuane in Mozambique 54 with sub-multiple of 18 years cycles.

      sjreddy

      • Very interesting SJ.

        I am interested in finding the cause of the 10 year sinusoidal pattern in Cape Town. The summer rainfall region which includes Botswana and Maputo and Durban is influenced by the precession of the moon’s orbit above the horizon (pulls the Indian Ocean differently). It is, however, erratic. In the middle of the 1983 total drought, Swaziland got a metre of rain in a day from Cyclone Demoina so the ‘rainfall’ readings are to be read ‘with wisdom’.

        • Durban sub-multiple of 22 years is part of Sunspot cycle 10.5 plus or minus 0.5 years and its multiples. Asmara in Eritrea [originally in Ethiopia] also showed 22 year cycle. I find this pattern in global solar radiation and net radiation in several Indian stations.

          sjreddy

  4. It has gone very quiet re Capetown. I am guessing that we will hear about it again in a few years when the cycle repeats and nothing much will have been done on water infrastructure.

    • There’s plenty of water available on the planet, 56 trillion gallons per person by my calculation. It’s a problem of distribution. What’s needed is a few well funded Engineers ( besides Elon Musk) . Mining Ice in the polar regions or distilling water in the tropics would be good places to start.
      Cheers
      Bahamamike

        • That’s what the Marxists and Socialists do. Do we want to look like Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, etc? Property rights are the first step toward innovation, which leads to higher efficiency and productivity. Take away the incentive to work, and humans won’t.

        • You may consider asking those who funded him before you steal it all away. And you better have more than a handful of cutting edge electric cars to hand out.

      • You don’t need to mine for extra water sources. Enough falls from the skies already. You just need to store enough to see you through the peaks and troughs.

        Building reservoirs is simple civil engineering – no novel skills needed. Just the will…

      • That makes me think of that scene from Brewster’s Millions, when the guy is trying to scam Brewster for some cash to bolt a couple of navy engines to an iceberg and drive it to Saudi Arabia so the farmers can grow crops in the desert.

      • Distillation is much less efficient than reverse osmosis. Any country with access to the ocean can have all the water they need if they will build a power plant or three to provide the electricity to desalinate the water. They could try out a new liquid thorium salt design.

  5. THE single most important lesson Aussie kids used to be told..
    Turn the bloody Tap OFF!!!!!

    second – wipe your feet!
    third – shut the damned door!

    refresher courses nowdays prob be a good idea;-)

    • Don’t stick your hand in a hole if you can’t see what’s at the bottom. There might be a poisonous snake or spider

      • or worse: a poisonous Australian! Kevin “Ruddy” Rudd bit me arm once and it the whole thing went red, least until the welfare ran out and it had to get a job. The left side for ya mate.

    • My north American grandchildren (MD) think nothing of leaving the tap running, and as they have been brought up in a high rainfall area they have no idea of how most Aussies grow up with that order in their ears – it bothers me terribly to see it, and I hope they travel when they grow up and understand my ranting when they see and understand how much of the world lives or struggles with the lack of sufficient potable water. It will only get worse. Capetown and other cities like LA that impose water restrictions should keep them in place permanently, imho, and they will be joined by others. To this day I take 3 min showers and turn the tap off while I wash my hair – back in the mid 60s the central Tasmanian lakes ran pretty well dry and rivers – the hydro people simply never seem to learn.

  6. Climate Change is like Traffic – The bog standard excuse for being late for an appointment.

  7. “Remember when we were told that Capetown SA’s water crisis was due to climate change? ”

    No.

    A. Dont get your science from the MSM, or from single papers to make it even clearer.
    get your science from a comprehensive review of ALL the science.
    B. Read the artcle, the author is not a scientist he is aerospace engineer and financial analyst

    Just as you will find dense skeptics arguing that co2 is a trace gas, you will find random engineers
    and financial analysts talking about science is a sloppy way.

      • A very important point. People “believe” in “climage change” aka big oil conspiracy destroying the world not because they read the IPCC reports (which are biased as well), but because they rely on the MSM that just generates ‘if it bleeds it leads’ headlines at a continuous pace.

        Did we hear at the BBC Chevron won its case in Ecuador? No? MSM is biased on big oil. Funnily some people just get it wrong on which side it is biased.

      • “I think your missing the point..Most of the PUBLIC get their info from the MSM..”

        Isn’t that exactly the point? That affects and reflects the public perception of climate change, not necessarily the science behind it.

        If you really want to find the truth, getting information about climate change science from WUWT is at least as unreliable as the MSM. The whole campaign about “We are winning” shows that the site has an agenda to dismiss, deny and reject mainstream climate science…and ultimately, affect public policy. “Winning” should be about finding the truth, but to attempt that would require a balanced assessment of both sides of the argument.

    • So, Steven, engineers can’t know anything and are too stupid to follow the scientific method. Only “real” scientists (such as yourself) are allowed to produce articles or comment? What do you call an appeal to self authority? “#selfimportance”?

      • Mosher is an accomplished something-or-other. He built a computer or co-wrote a computer program or something — can’t quite remember.

      • I have absolutely nothing against engineers, and the last thing I would call them is stupid. But are they trained in the scientific method? Do they take courses in experimental design? I have no idea.

        • @Kristi Silber: I have a friend with a PhD in Civil Engineering. They are as well trained in “the scientific method” as most scientists. They also have to learn something about statistics otherwise how will they ever understand quality management? They actually do a fair bit of experimental design, so need to learn a little about design of experiments.

    • Mosh, seeing as we are being scientific and all today, I should point out that CO2 is definitely a trace gas. You can read about the measurement of trace gases using the Heterogeneous Test Protocol (HTP) in a journal article of approximately that name.

      You are not going to successfully sell the idea that at a concentration of 500 ppm CO2 is not a trace gas, at least not in the science community.

      • Damnation! Beat me to it! I so wanted to point out that Mosher really posted a stinker comment this time about CO2. Being the redhead Irish leprechaun that I am, I will argue to the death that CO2 is indeed a trace compound gas in our atmosphere. And today I am 62. That right there makes me more right than Mosher. With being Irish a close second. Being a woman? Meh. Who cares.

    • Think of the irony of someone calling others dense in the very same sentence where he states CO2 isn’t a trace gas! That’s funny, right there, I don’t care who you are!

    • The Mayor, Patricia DeLille blamed climate change continually. Every official who was asked about the water crisis involved climate change in their response.

      Nobody went off to talk to the scientific exotics who would have said climate change wan’t involved so the assumption by all of us was that, risible as it is, climate change was being blamed.

    • Steven Mosher responds to “Remember when we were told . . . .” No.

      You can always tell Steven Mosher, but you can’t tell him much.

      I’ll try this:
      Here, on Monday the high was 103° F.
      Today’s (Wed) high may get to 90°.
      NWS thinks on Friday it will get to 79°.

      So highs are dropping at 10F degrees per day.

      For Saturday the 28th, we should get to Zero.

  8. Hey , wait a moment : You are totally ignoring the fact that all this unexpected rain is obviously due to climate change.

    • Too right mate. Happens all over Australia 4 times a year, this newfangled Climate Change™©® thingie. The dams slowly empty while in the Sun we burn black. Warmists wail and gnash teeth fer ages, then it bloody rains an’ we get water in our beer.

      I’d go back to England if it weren’t fer that loaf of bread I pinched, they might lock me up.

  9. Climate Claim Particles usually have a half-life of around 16 days, but the various sections of the article do not decay evenly.
    Day 0: Full article-particle of desperate claim and explanation of methods is emitted.
    Day 15: Researchers hit the talk show circuit without discussing methods.
    Day 30: Only the ‘executive summary’ remains, busy executives skim 10% of it.
    Day 45: The most specious claims remain in abstract, unsupported by corroboration.
    Day 60: A single shrill headline on the topic gets pasted over unrelated content.
    Day 75: Article has decayed into a wordless cry of anxiety and terror.
    Day 90: THIS particular climate claim now faded into Background Quantum Anxiety

    It is important to note that this is theory derived from observation and insinuation. A single Climate Claim has never been successfully isolated in the laboratory. From around Day 7 its characteristics are melded with other related claims, with news sources cannibalizing previous claims for style, severity and shrillness. Around the time of Climate Conferences the peaks of articleparticles merge into a steady state of alarm.

    Next up, we will discuss polarization and ‘spin’ of Climalarm Article-Particles, And a discussion of Background Quantum Anxiety, left over from the Big Boo.

    • forgot,
      Day 20: Willis Eschenbach writes a brilliant statistical treatise on the topic and adds a chapter to his book, Zen and the Art of Cycle Nuance.

    • These particles do seem to have a cluster effect where they coalesce in documentaries and toss-off lines in Hollywood – this extends the half-life indefinitely.

  10. sucks teeth shakes head

    Weather eh? What *is* it like?

    We get that in England you know – weather.
    Crazy stuff. It even rains sometimes.
    Not as much as in Wales tho.
    or Cumbria – you can tell – there be ‘lakes’. In Cumbria
    Wales has dragons – cool eh – never seen one meself tho.
    And in Scotland, they even have dragons that live in lakes.
    Must rain a lot there too.

    And folks talk about it all the time. In England. Weather
    They really *really* do.
    Mmmmmm. Are they missing the dragons?
    Oooph. That George fellow has a lot to answer for.

    Did St George come from Cumbria – King Arthur certainly did.
    Don’t tell ‘im I’ve got a concrete dragon in my garden. George, not Arthur
    He’s painted green and not scary like the weather – the kids love him
    The dragon.
    Not Arthur or George
    Dunno what the kids think of those 2

    • “…That George fellow has a lot to answer for…”

      Not at all, at all. Oi’ve met several blokes in pubs who claimed to have a dragon waitin’ for them at home.

  11. For those who want billions poured into trying to change climate rather than adapting to the situation the story of South Africa offers really interesting lessons. This is a country of droughts and floods with large areas with low rainfall. Water, however, can make the desert bloom. Currently the largest dams are nearly full.

    Dam …….Volume megalitres …….Date completed …….Percentage full
    Gariep (Hendrik Verwoerd) ……5,340,600 ……1971 ……92.8
    Vanderkloof ……3,171,300 ……1977 ……98.6
    Sterkfontein ……2,616,900 ……1980 ……95.5
    Vaal ……2,603,400 ……1939 ……98.3

    Sadly no dams of comparable size are being built despite the population increasing from 29 million in 1980 to 56 million in 2018. The last of these was built 35 years ago. The irony is that these dams were built because of the vision of the “bad guys” and not today’s enlightened and liberated rulers. However the dams stand as huge monuments to men who believed that we can adapt and massively improve our environment and lives.

    Today the Western Cape dams are 55.7% full. Here is an interesting website:
    http://www.capetown.gov.za/Family%20and%20home/residential-utility-services/residential-water-and-sanitation-services/this-weeks-dam-levels

    • So, 3 major dams in 9 years and none in the last 38.
      The population has doubled since the end of apartheid in 1994.

    • Michael, it is a bit ingenious to only list the dams built on South African soil and not mention the dams in Southern Africa as a whole. The Lesotho highlands project with a number of big dams is augmenting the supply to Gauteng. They are currently busy with another dam and tunnel connection.

      It always helps to build dams in a location with good rainfall. A dam in the Karoo would be of no use to man or beast.

    • They can’t. By SA laws, the bulk supply of water, like the railways, major roads and policing, is a NATIONAL competence. (Or should that be INcompetence?) Anyway, the Ministry for Water Affairs has been repeatedly found to be a money sink – but of course no-one has been hauled up for corruption (oh yes, THAT’S also a national competence). CAGW has always been a political excuse for just about everything.

    • The Western Cape’s problem is that the mountains that get most of the rain are near the coast with an extremely dry hinterland, hence short minor rivers. There have been two new dams, the Berg River and Voelvlei, which are innovative. There is also transfer of water across the dam system but the optimal sites for water capture are pretty much taken. The Western Cape contains its own Floral Kingdom, incredibly rich in species per sq meter, high endemicity and a lot of it lost to agriculture . The real problem is population increase due to migration from the less successful/failing parts of the country.

  12. Cape Town’s water problems derive directly from poor management, unregulated urban growth and failures to create additional water-storage infrastructure. Blaming “climate change”, in this case, poor rainy seasons, is the politicians’ magic act — misdirecting public attention to prevent discovery of the real sources of the problem.

    Growing cities in historically dry environments need to grow their water infratructure — and do it long before the problems become urgent.

    • I met a former UN employee who told me much of African dysfunction is explicable by baksheesh.

  13. OK, One more time….Drought is climate change. Rain is weather. Unless there is a lot of rain, then it is climate change.

  14. But continue with the UN grant applications anyway because they are too stupid and biased to question the climate connection premise of the request.

  15. Re: “The animation above, based on Landsat imagery, shows the condition of the reservoir at two month intervals between 2015 and 2018.”

    The animation isn’t animated, for me.

    Could someone post a link to it? (You can probably http instead of https to prevent it from getting in-lined.)

  16. But the important thing is, they got their alarmist messaging out.

    Y’know, the hell of it is, I used to spend a lot of time chasing down the science behind every one of these BS stories, but in the end, I ALWAYS found a shell game somewhere.

    After a period of years, I just sort of gave up, and just assumed it was there, rather than letting it consume my life. Because there will be another alarmist message out tomorrow, and the next day after that. I finally learned the lesson of futility.

    The frustrating part is, what do you do after you reach the point of futility, yet the drumbeat still marches on?

  17. Last I heard SAF is turning into another s**thole, every man for themselves.
    Correct me if I’m wrong.

  18. The real issue behind this is lack of dam construction. The dam shown here, Theeswaterkloof was constructed in 1983. Since then the only significant addition was the Berg river dam west of Franschoek, completed in 2012.

    Winter water storage capacity has risen 10% since 1983, but the population of the Western Cape may have changed from 1 million to 4 million over the same period.

    So, while it is true that rains were poor from 2013 to 2017, and have been good in 2018, there is an infrastructure problem behind this.

  19. It never had anything to do with “Climate Change”.

    The Western Cape, and the Cape Peninsula in particular, has a very diverse climate. Rainfall is frontal and orographic predominantly. There are significant rain-shadow areas.

    Kirstenbosch Gardens rainfall averages a little under 1400mm per year. A few tens of miles away on the Cape Flats, at Cape Town Intl airport, average rainfall is about 30% of that at 515mm per year. Go inland a 100 or so miles beyond that to the Southern or Central Karoo, and rainfall drops to 150mm per year.

    None of this is insurmountable, and significant infrastructure exists (and works, unlike elsewhere in S Africa. The Western Cape remains the only fully functional part of the formerly very largely First World S.Africa) to maximise collection and distribution of rainfall into irrigation and reticulation systems.

    The problem is simply this: In 1980 the population of Cape Town and surrounding areas on the Flats and Peninsula was about 1,1m. In 1996, it was 2.5m, in 2001 it was 2.9m. Latest estimates for 2018 put the Cape Town and surrounding areas population at 3.75m.

    Rainfall, and periodic drier or wetter winters never was the problem. Politics and population is.

  20. I have read or seen somewhere that part of the water problem in Capetown is racism. The government policy is to ensure the percentage of white employees in any field does not exceed the percentage of whites (a declining number) in the national population. The lack of RSA civil engineers of correct tone has meant a reduction in the number of engineers employed and there are insufficient bodies to meet the challenge. Anyone know civil engineers (with lots of melanin) specializing in water collection, retention and distribution wanting to work for a communist regime that seems determined to have a self-inflicted famine, an economic melt-down and a bloody genocide? Engineers are smart – could be a hard sell.

  21. How does the fact that it rained in any way whatsoever indicate that climate change was not partly responsible for the drought?

    • Good Point Kristi, indeed I would say climate change was fully responsible since the climate has been changing in step with solar cycles (and other cycles) for as long as we have records for this. A little research reveals that during the Maunder Minimum, an extreme solar minimum event, droughts, floods crop loss and famine, along with extreme winters in the North, for which it is better known, were all well represented.
      However, climate changing in step with the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere? Not so much.

Comments are closed.