Category Archives: Cape Town

All Hail

Hail!

Haiku 71

All Hail! Little stones

Dancing on my patio

So rare yet welcome

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We had Hail!

It is quite rare for the conditions to be just right for it to hail here in Cape Town. However, after a storm raging all night at the weekend, we got this brief hailstorm in the early morning. It was great to watch the little stones bouncing on the slaster.

It seems we are getting our July weather after all – but in August!

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post script: The weather is odd right now. When a cold front passes bringing rain, the temperatures drop right down. It was 9 C reaching a high of only 11 C when it hailed, which is cold for CT. But the sun, when it comes out, is hot!

The sun has been returning for two months already. It is higher in the sky, much warmer than it was and around for longer in the day. It is very pleasant for Little Monkey and I to take a walk after a rainstorm, when the air is fresh and clear, and the sun warm on our backs. 

 

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Day Zero – Now What?

Raindrops

Basically, Day Zero will not now happen in 2018, and probably not in 2019 either. Day Zero: the day the taps would be turned off in Cape Town, if the dam levels fell to 13%. See Day Zero and Day Zero – Update.

Weekly Drought Monitoring

This is because Cape Town received some rain this winter, mostly in May, with a little in June, virtually none in July (which used to be our wettest month!) and some this August, as you can see from the graph above.

Dam Levels 20 August 2018

The dams have just reached the 60% mark I was hoping for. Hooray! (You can see in the graph above that for this week in 2017 the dams were only 32% full!)

This puts us out of the danger zone for a while. The water should last us over the upcoming long, dry, hot summer months, until the next winter rains can be expected in May 2019.

However, all water restrictions are still in place and these are severe. Each person is allowed only 50 litres of water a day. Drinking water cannot be used for any purpose other than drinking and household requirements. You are not allowed to wash your car, water your garden or top up your swimming pool.

You can use grey water (dirty water, such as water already used for washing clothes or dishes, and unsuitable for drinking) to flush your toilets or water your garden.

Dam Levels 2014 to 2018

So what was all the fuss about then?

Well, if Capetonians had continued to use water at the rate we used to do, which was about 1.2 billion litres a day, we would definitely have run out of water (some time back in April this year). We now use about 500 million litres a day; a significant reduction.

There had to be “scare tactics” and strict regulations made. People who refused to reduce their water usage were heavily fined and had water metres fitted that would shut off the water supply to their property after their allotted amount was used up for the day.

If people had not been woken up to the facts and that queuing for water would be a very real possibility, most people would not have saved enough water. Sadly it is just human nature. “It rained yesterday therefore we have water.” “If there was a problem they’d switch the water supply off.” etc

What irked me in all this was the world view. I felt the rest of the world was pointing fingers at Cape Town and saying, “How could they be so stupid and not plan for this?”

I repeat again: It Did Not Rain!

2014 was fine, dams 100% full.
2015 less rain, but still fine.
2016 less rain again, but OK.
2017 hardly any rain at all!

As you can see from the graphs above and below.

Ten Year Graph of Dam Levels

Water Augmentation Projects were in place before the drought struck, but not for the immediate future, rather for 2020 to 2025. These projects are still underway with more proposed. Large desalination plants are very expensive! Water is being produced already, but nowhere near yet, to the 500 ML needed per day.

Water Augmentation

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By now everyone is used to the small amount of water they’re allowed to use daily here in Cape Town.

But it would be nice to take a shower for more than 90 seconds or have a bath in more than 2 cm of water!

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post script: The graphs shown here are for the week beginning Monday 20 August 2018. You can visit the City of Cape Town website for current information.

 

I Hate Winter!

Little Monkey

Little Monkey’s rebuttal to my last post.

Poor Little Monkey!

She is a Sun Dog and really hates the cold, damp, windy winters of Cape Town. So she puts herself back to bed in the kitchen and waits for the sun to return.

Lucky for her, our winter is short. (Like this post!)

 

I Love Winter

Raindrops 1

In case you hadn’t noticed yet, I love winter here in Cape Town!

I realise I am in the minority in this, as most Capetonians prefer the summer heat. However, I’ve always found it too hot and humid here in Cape Town in summer. Growing up in the freezing North of England I am used to the cold; proper cold!

If you’re too cold you can always put on another jersey.

If you’re too hot, what do you do? We don’t have air-conditioning in our house (and neither does anyone I know).

All you can hope for is some breeze. And there are many summer days here when there isn’t a breath of air. You sit outside under the trees and drink copious amounts of ice cold drinks and just survive till evening and a slight lowering of the exhausting day time temperatures.

One year in March temperatures in Cape Town reached 40C. This was excessive and rare. And also sweltering!

I love wearing jeans and a jersey and a scarf. I have a special Comfort Jersey, which is baggy and thin and I love it to bits. I look at it longingly in summer and practically live in it in winter.

The only trouble with winter here in CT is that most of the shopping centres are heated, so I find myself stripping off layers and walking round in my Tshirt, sweating!

Raindrops 2

It can be jolly cold first thing in the mornings, especially when the sky is clear and there are no clouds to keep the heat in. It’s a damp sort of cold. These are the mornings when I walk Little Monkey wearing gloves and a scarf and I can see my breath billowing out on front of me. The nice thing is that I can walk her any time of the day in winter and not be incinerated by the sun! In summer it has to be early morning or late afternoon, avoiding the sun as if we were vampires!

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So how cold does it get in Cape Town?

Monday was about the coldest we get. A large storm front had passed through Cape Town, bringing heavy rain, with floods in some areas, and snow on Table Mountain* and in areas to the north.

When it snows on Table Mountain and the winds blow over that, it gets jolly cold. So, yeah temperatures may only drop to 8C, but it is a biting cold.

I do have a little heater, but never use it the whole of winter. It’s stored somewhere gathering dust. We just put on more clothing if it we’re too cold.

Also, the first thing I do every morning is open all the windows and doors. I like to have fresh air to breathe. The temperature on the barometer in my lounge this morning was 11C.

But in a few days the sun will be out again and it will heat up to 22C outside.

Raindrops 3

Of course, I am waxing lyrical about winter here, because we have had three dry winters in a row. In the old days it would rain just about every day for three weeks at a time and you got heartily sick of it. Everything was damp; you had washing hanging inside on the clotheshorse for days before it was dry enough to put in the tumble dryer. The kids never got to play sport at school, as every afternoon was rained off.

But now, even if it did rain like in the old days, I would still welcome it, because we really need the water and it would break the drought.

Meanwhile I am very much enjoying not being hot!

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The photos show respectively, raindrops on the window with my poinsettia outside in the background and the last one is rain falling in Little Monkey’s water bowl on the stoep.

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*Table Mountain has its own little ecosystem and climate. There are about as many plant species on Table Mountain as there are in the entire British Isles. There are over 2200 species of flowering plants on the mountain, 90 species of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Click on the links for more info, or simply google Table Mountain.

 

Winter Wonderland

Hibiscus

It may be winter down here in Cape Town, but many of my plants are in full bloom and my garden is full of life and colour. In fact it seems more colourful now than it is in summer.

Join me for a walk around my Mid-Winter garden.

Bougainvillea 1

The first photo is of my peach hibiscus, which produces large pretty blooms for most of the year.

Next, my bougainvillea is a welcome cheery pink, but seems to have suffered a bit from the drought; it is quite crinkly.

Bougainvillea 2

You have seen photos of some of my honeysuckle recently. Here is a yellow bush that I planted as a little thing only a year ago.

Honeysuckle

And my plumbago is still producing many lovely blue blooms.

Plumbago

My poinsettia is a tree reaching for the sky. This shot captures the bright red leaves from underneath, as the flowers are all way above my head.

Poinsettia

The recent rain has cheered up many of my plants, but has left these impatiens with muddy faces!

Impatiens

And Miss Camellia is absolutely bursting with blooms.

Camellia 1

Closer:

Camellia 2

Even closer!

Camellia 3

And last, but by no means least, my Old Faithful floribunda rose bush, still going strong.

Rose

All these photos were taken on the same day last week; 21 June, our Winter Solstice.

I hope you have enjoyed wandering around my winter garden with me.

 

Day Zero – Update

Reflections – trees and sky reflected in the pool

Day Zero – The day they turn off the taps in Cape Town.

Some of you may have been wondering what is happening with Day Zero down here in Cape Town since my last post in February?

It hasn’t gone away entirely, but it has been postponed to 2019.

Typically, we get no rain over the summer months, relying on good winter rains to fill up the dams for the following summer. In April this year we got rain about twice; the same for May. When I say ‘rain’ it could be all of 0.1 mm!

But now it is starting to rain a little more often and a little more heavily. We got a whole 1 cm one week and just the other day we got 2 cm in a few days. Hooray!

I am talking about the rainfall in my garden. If we’re lucky it does rain more in other parts of the Cape and hopefully more so in the catchment area, to fill up the dams, as you can see below.

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Dam levels and comparisons.

Dam Levels Over Ten Years

The above graph shows the total dam levels over the course of one year, starting at January, week 1, for a period of ten years (each line is a different year). As you can see where I have indicated, the dam levels for all the years 2009 to 2014 were consistently good.

It is only over the last three years, 2015 to 2017 that the dam levels have dropped significantly, when we did not receive good winter rains.

I’d like to point out here how well Capetonians have been saving water.

If you look at the gradient of the graph from the top left down to the lower points, (week 1 to week 20, this is from January to May/June) the dam levels fall as water is used and there is no rainfall.

You’ll notice that every year follows the same kind of downward slope of about 20 degrees, until you get to this year, 2018, the thick red triangle line. The slope for 2018 is about 10 degrees, which is half as steep.

This is because everyone has made such a great effort to save water.

This is what has kept us from reaching Day Zero so far.

Percentage Water Stored in Dams

Above you can see how the levels of the dams fluctuate over the years, reaching their lowest points just before the winter rains. You can see that from 2014 to now, the dams have simply not filled up enough, as the winter rains have been so poor.

Levels in Each Dam – Graphs

The above graph shows the levels in each of the major dams from 2014 to the present, for the week beginning June 18th. The last two diagrams are nearly identical as they are just a week apart.

Levels in Each Dam – Percentages

The above diagram shows the same information as the graph, but in percentages. You can see that on this date in 2014 all the dams were still practically full, with the levels steadily decreasing from 2015 to 2017. However, the recent rains have increased the levels this year to such an extent that the dams are now fuller than they were in 2016.

Day Zero Tracker

The above graph indicates more than anything just how successful Capetonians have been in saving water.

The yellow area is the critical zone. If water usage fell below this, Day Zero would be implemented. The taps would be turned off and we would have to queue for water at designated areas. The dotted black line shows the actual water usage and by stringently saving water we have kept above the yellow danger zone.

You’ll notice that suddenly in May the dotted black line shoots upwards. This is because it rained.

If – and this is still a big if – we get good rains over the next two months we might avoid Day Zero in 2019.

I think it is unlikely the total dam levels will reach 60%, which would be a safe amount to last us through next dry season (September to April.)

We are still on Level 6 water restrictions: 50 litres of water per person per day.

There are adverts in the papers encouraging people still to stay within these limits.

Newspaper Ad

Toilets in many shopping centres or restaurants have replaced soap in the dispensers with hand sanitiser and the taps have been turned off, so there is no water.

Save Water – Hand Sanitisers

I saw a comment on a YouTube clip about CT and Day Zero where someone thought 50 litres was a lot of water and you could easily live within this.

Well you can live within it, but it isn’t easy. For example one machine wash of clothes on the best water-saving cycle uses 40 litres of water (nearly your whole daily ration). You also have to wash your hands, prepare and cook food, wash dishes, wash your hair and yourself!

Still, being extremely careful and re-using every single drop, you can stay within the daily limit of 50 litres.

Nevertheless, I am getting very weary of scooping every last drop of water out of the sink or bath tub and lifting heavy buckets of grey water to flush the loo, or carrying them down the passage and out into the garden to water my thirsty plants.

I will end up with arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger!

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post script: Now it is raining more I don’t have to water the plants so much. Phew!

I find my Readers rarely click on my links (I hope due to time constraints and not lack of interest!) so that is why I included screen shots of some graphs showing the dam levels. 

If you wish to have more information on the graphs in this post, you can click on this link: City of Cape Town Website. 

Once again, this post took many hours to complete. Maybe next time I’ll just post a photo of cake!

 

Storm Front

Red Skies 1

Haiku 58

A beautiful sight

Clouds amass in red sunset

Presage to a Storm

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Did you know that Cape Town is referred to as The Cape of Good Hope?

Did you know it is also referred to as The Cape of Storms?

Red Skies 2

We get some tremendous gales down here at the tip of the African continent. We are the first outcrop of land to take the brunt of those Antarctic storm fronts that come rushing in from the south west.

We are used to it.

When we talk about it being a bit windy, you can be sure the trees are bending furiously in the gales and your breath is whipped from your body when you walk abroad.

Red Skies 3

This year we are particularly grateful for each and every one of these storm fronts that actually does hit our coastline.

Last year, time after time, they passed by south of us, taking their tantalising rain clouds with them.

Last year was the third year in a row that we received a lower than average rainfall and the drought hit us hard.

So far, this year promises to be better. Already we have had more rain than the same time last year. The total dam levels in Cape Town are at 26%. This time last year they were at 19%.

And Capetonians are continuing to save water like crazy. We are still limited to a maximum of 50 litres per person per day.

This is what has saved us; so far.

We can only hope that our rainy months of June and July fulfill our expectations and the dams replenish enough to last us through to this time next year.

Bring on the storms!

 

post script: You can read about how different our winters were back in 2014, in two of my early posts: Give a Dog a Bone and Cape of Storms.