Tag Archives: drought

Clouds!

Cotton Wool Clouds 1

Haiku 222

As empty as clouds

Cotton wool brain, stuck inside

Corona effect

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Cotton Wool Clouds 2

I was watching these fluffy cotton wool balls drift by one morning, as I sat outside having my cuppa. Though these particular clouds would not bring rain, we’re doing all right in Cape Town this year.

The dam levels are at 99.7%! Can you believe it?

These water reserves have to last us over the coming hottest summer months, until the next rains fall, a good six months away.

Three years ago in 2017, after lower than average rainfall several years in a row, the dams were at 37.6%. The levels dropped as low as 19% before we got rain.

Back then the whole world was pointing fingers at Cape Town and saying we would be the first major city to run out of water, on Day Zero.

Cotton Wool Clouds 3

I am very happy that we did not run out of water. By drastically rationing and re-using water, we averted disaster. The people of CT still do this, which is why the dams have filled up again so quickly; it’s not as if there have been really good rains recently. In fact, 2019 was quite dry; but by collectively altering our behaviour, we have triumphed.

So I could watch these fluffy clouds serenely, knowing that though they will not produce rain, the dams are already full!

 

Replete!

Pool Full to Brim – Leaf

Haiku 136

Tiny yellow leaf

Floating in my swimming pool

What significance?

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OK, so what’s so special about this apple tree leaf?

Nothing in the leaf alone; except for its natural beauty of course!

It’s where it is rather than what it is!

This is my pool. It is absolutely full to the brim!

Dog Bowls Full to Brim

Finally, after a dry start, our rainy season is living up to its name. The pool has filled up many times in the last few weeks; as have all the dog’s water bowls.

Hooray!!!

 

post script: Dam levels are currently at 75% having suddenly increased by 11%  in the last 10 days! Two years ago, after our summer of 2017, dam levels had fallen to only 20%.

 

All That Glitters

Raindrops 1

Haiku 110

Nature’s reminder

All that glitters is not gold

Sometimes it’s better!

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Raindrops 2

We had a little rain recently. My plants rejoiced.

Raindrops 3

Cape Town still has harsh water restrictions, even though the dams are 46% full, which is a huge improvement on last year’s 20%.

However, it has hardly rained so far this year. This is our rainy season and will be over in a few more months.

Raindrops 4

Let’s hope we get some good downpours of this precious substance, which in the photo above looks like quicksilver.

 

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’m Still Here!

Asparagus Fern 1

Haiku 66

Don’t write me off yet

Though I seem withered and dead

There’s still a life spark

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My Asparagus Fern had flourished for many years in a giant pot on my stoep. Then one day, about three months ago, it died. (See Casualties of Drought.)

Asparagus Fern 2

Surprisingly, out of the blue, I spotted this one little green shoot.

Asparagus Fern 3

I guess something in there is still alive after all.

 

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!

 

Casualties of Drought

Drought 1

Sadly not all my plants have survived the on-going drought here in Cape Town.

This is mostly due to my negligence.

A case in point is this spiky bush that has lived in a giant plant pot for years. It produced tiny little white flowers and then little red berries.

Tomatoes 1

In times of good rains it produced little bulb-like nodules near the roots that looked like grapes, where it stored excess moisture, so it could survive times of drought.

I rarely watered this plant, maybe tipping the last drop of water from the watering can onto it occasionally. I could see it was very happy with multiple ‘grapes’ full of water.

Drought 2

But I have been unobservant.

One by one these ‘grapes’ must have been used up as the drought progressed and the emergency water supply for the plant disappeared.

I never even noticed.

Drought 3

All that is left are dried out dead twigs.

The green leaves sprouting in the pot must be some of my bulbs, freesia and sparaxis, that usually flower in spring; September. I have no idea what they are doing now.

There were a few other plants that also died; a dianthus I kept in a large tea cup; all the pansies and violetta.

And my old Jasmine.

Drought 4

I was very sad to see this one go.

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Other plants have survived against all odds:

Son of Shrimp Bush survived, because I did think to throw a little water his way now and then.

Mr Spaghetti Legs’ little fynbos plant survives. Any spare water I have I give to him first.

For the rest, my garden is looking pretty good.

Surprisingly, it bounces back lush and green after even the most meagre of rainfalls.

All in all there are more survivors than casualties.

 

Day Zero

Where’s All the Water?

Day Zero

The day they turn off the taps in Cape Town.

The photo shows Sparky the squirrel looking in my pool, wondering where all the water has gone. The top white line shows where the water used to be and the bottom line where it is now.

You might have heard about Day Zero in the international news lately.

Actually, our drought has been going on for the last three years, caused by below average rainfall in our winter months of June and July.

People cite bad planning and foresight and an increased population. However, although the population of CT has increased over the years, the water consumption has not. The main reason for the drought is hotter temperatures than usual and three bad winter rainfalls.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. Normally enough rain falls over those winter months to fill our many large dams and supply the whole of the Cape Town area with plenty of drinking water to last right through the long dry summer months.

Dam Levels over the Years

This has not happened for the last three years. The dams have not filled after the winter rains. In fact, last year, 2017, our dam levels got as low as 19% before we finally got some rain. It just wasn’t enough rain.

The dams are currently at a total capacity of 24.6%. When the level reaches 13.5% they turn off the taps.

The last 10% of water in the dams is very difficult to use. Basically it’s just sludge. So before they reach this, they turn off the taps at 13.5 %.

Dam Levels

They won’t turn off the taps for essential services, such as hospitals, or for the townships and the CBD.

This leaves a few % left in the dams for the above uses and also for manual distribution where you queue for your own personal ration.

So you, and the other 4 million Capetonians, will have to queue every day, at one of the 200 odd distribution points that will be set up around the city, for your 25 litre ration of drinking water

This is Day Zero.

Day Zero is a prediction that changes depending on how much water is used each week and whether it rains. It was as close as 12 April at one point.

It has very recently been pushed back by a few weeks because farmers at Grabouw released 10 billion litres of water stored in their own private dams to the CT dam system.

The estimate I most trust is currently at 30 April.

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Most Capetonians are doing their very best to try to avoid Day Zero. Our daily allowance of water was 87 litres per person per day. This has been further reduced to 50 litres per person per day. When the taps are turned off you will be allowed just 25 litres per person per day, which you will have to go and queue for. Any pets you may have will have to share your ration.

You are not allowed to water your garden, wash your car, top up your swimming pool, or waste water in any way. There are serious fines for doing so. This is why my pool is so empty in the squirrel photo.

It is up to each individual to reduce their water consumption as much as possible right now and the majority of us are doing just that.

How?

By re-using water as much as possible.

Grey Water 

This is water previously used, for washing etc and then re-used to flush toilets or water plants. Bore hole water is also Grey Water. It is not clean enough to drink.

How to reduce water consumption.

Take a 90 second shower, fitted with a special shower head, and with a bucket in the shower to catch water. Or take a bath in only a bucket or two of water and keep the plug in. Then you can scoop out every last drop of bath water. This Grey Water can be used to flush the toilet.

Wash dishes once a day in a small amount of water.

Wash clothes once or twice a week on the shortest cycle. I have a sink that my washing machine empties into. I put the plug in and scoop all that Grey Water out to re-use too.

If the water is not too soapy you can put it on your plants. Otherwise, you can pour it down your loos and never have to actually flush again.

In toilets in shopping centres they have turned off the water in the taps and replaced the soap in the dispenser with hand sanitiser.

At many restaurants they also have hand sanitiser out for use instead of soap and water. They also limit the amount of water they bring to you. This is a hot country and many posher restaurants would serve you a tall glass of ice water when you sat down.

There are signs up at the airport when you arrive in Cape Town, alerting you to the drought and asking you to save water.

Most hotels also encourage you to save water by taking a short shower.

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What is CT doing about the drought?

The Cape Town government website has a lot of information and other links to click on. This is where I got the above graphs from.

There are several projects being developed, such as desalination plants, recycling, finding ground water, but none of these is finished yet.

The following clips are about 5 minutes long and will give you an idea of what is really going on here and not just the news stories.

CT water crisis.

What’s the government doing?

Watch a little for the CT accent if nothing else!

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What do I think of Day Zero?

I think we’ll run out of water towards the end of April; maybe mid-May if we’re lucky. I think we’ll have at least a month with no water in the taps, before it rains and the dams start to fill  up. Sometime after this, like next year, I think the desalination plants will start to come on line. So hopefully we won’t go through all this again next summer.

I think Capetonians will rise to the challenge and adapt, with a sense of humour. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then just make the most of it. Here is your chance to learn a new language, or finally start that book you’ve always been meaning to read (War and Peace?), while you stand for hours on end every day in the water queue!

Or if there is no water, drink your vodka neat – no ice cubes! (Every bit helps!)

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post script: This post took me many, many hours to write, with 27 revisions. Several of my readers have been asking about the drought, so I hope I have answered most questions.

 

Dust Devil

Vineyard 1

Vineyard 1

Sitting in the shade of a massive tree with my friend, overlooking the rose garden and vineyards, I noticed dust clouds billowing in the distance.

 

Vineyard 2

Vineyard 2

At first all I could see was the dust cloud, but then I became aware of a tiny object moving in front of the dust; it was a tractor.

Nothing epitomises the lack of rain more than watching this tiny machine drive up and down the narrow pathways between rows of grape vines, engulfed in dust clouds.

Vineyard 3

Vineyard 3

It was not spraying crops. The clouds are red dust.

The wind easily picks up the red dust that used to be earth, swirls it around in a Dust Devil and spreads it to the four corners of the universe, never to be seen here again.

We need rain.

How else is this crop of grapes going to survive well enough to become tomorrow’s wine?

 

Crunchy!

LM 29 Nov

Lawn 3 and LM – 29 Nov

Those of you in the Northern hemisphere who experience frosty weather will be used to the ground being crunchy underfoot.

You might be surprised to learn that those of us here in Cape Town, in the Southern hemisphere, also find the ground crunching under our feet.

But this has nothing to do with frost or frozen ground.

Nope.

We have severe water restrictions, because it just didn’t rain enough last winter (our rainfall season) and the dams are extremely low. This water has to last the whole summer season stretching out in front of us for the next six months before any rain can confidently be expected to fall again, in our rainy season in July; next winter for us.

The following series of four photos show the rapid dehydration of the grass on my lawn over eleven weeks.

Lawn - 7 Oct

Lawn 1 – 7 Oct

We are at level 3 water restrictions. This means no hose pipes and no watering the lawn. You can water plants with a watering can on three days of the week either very early or late in the day for an hour.

Lawn 2 and LM - 15 Oct

Lawn 2 and LM – 15 Oct

It is survival of the fittest for the plants out there.

Fortunately, most of my garden has indigenous plants that have survived many years with little water. It is just my rose bushes that I water a little once a week; and the new Erica bush my husband bought me when my old boy Mr Spaghetti Legs died. This little bush, although indigenous, has not had time yet to establish its roots, so I watch it like a hawk and water it a few times a week to ensure the roots do not dry out. It doesn’t need much water, but it does need some!

Lawn 3 and LM - 29 Nov

Lawn 3 and LM – 29 Nov

Still, this leaves my poor lawn shrivelling up and dying in the endless heat. This is very sad, because we had been nurturing the small patches of good grass; (see Rejuvenation. ) and they are definitely larger than last year. If I had water I would regularly water round the edges of these patches to promote their growth. Sadly I’ll have to watch as even these patches now die off.

Lawn 4 and LM - 23 Dec

Lawn 4 and LM – 23 Dec

On our walks now, Little Monkey and I crunch our way round everyone else’s grass verges that are already more brown than green.

Climate change?

Absolutely.