The City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste Alderman Xanthea Limberg, along with Subcouncil chairperson and ward councillors Elton Jansen and Joan Woodman, visited the Strandfontein temporary desalination plant on Wednesday, 17 June 2020, on the last day of its contribution to our water supply. The temporary plant was decommissioned at midnight on Wednesday, after providing 3,8 billion litres to the city over a period of two years and during our worst drought in Cape Town’s recorded history.
Two years on from the commissioning of the Strandfontein desalination plant, the City of Cape Town has acquired valuable knowledge through hands-on experience about the operation of this alternative water technology. We are now confident that we are capable of successfully pursuing the large scale desalination project included in the Water Strategy: our roadmap towards greater resilience and water security in the face of shifting climate realities.
Commissioned in May/June 2018 as one of the City’s emergency projects as we faced the prospect of Day Zero, the plant was initially hired to function as an emergency water supply if the City needed to take the step of switching off the taps and creating water collection points. This scenario was narrowly avoided, but the severity of the drought presented a stark reality that relying solely on surface water was no longer a sustainable approach.
‘This was a first for the City, and the experience of the past two years has taught us a lot about the management of a desalination plant. They say that one should never let a good crisis go to waste, and while the going was tough during the worst drought in our recorded history, this project has shown that we can produce clean, SANS 241 approved drinking water through desalination. Successfully concluding this project brings us a step closer towards achieving resilience through alternative water sources and large scale desalination in the coming years,’ said Alderman Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste.
The Strandfontein temporary desalination plant is being decommissioned a month earlier than scheduled, at the contractor’s request, due to demand for modular desalination elsewhere in the world. After careful consideration, as there is no cost incurred by the City as well as the negligible impact this would have on water security, the City has accepted this proposal.
Once the plant has been shut down, the infrastructure will be removed in phases by the contractor. Timeframes for the removal of infrastructure will be largely dependent on the weather and sea conditions. During this time, public access to sections of the area may be limited, depending on the scope of the work being effected.
The area on which the plant was built will be restored to its former condition. An Environmental Control Officer will monitor the rehabilitation work.
Local community members were given valuable work opportunities throughout the duration of the project, from construction right through to the operation of the desalination plant.
‘As we “tie the ribbon” on this plant, I would like to thank the community of Strandfontein and surrounds, and all other roleplayers for their support and cooperation since its installation and throughout this process. Ward councilors Elton Jansen and Joan Woodman have been supportive throughout, and this has helped the project run as successfully as it has,’ said Alderman Limberg.
‘Sub-Council 23 is proud to have been the host community for this plant, and played their part in helping Cape Town through the height of this historic drought,’ said Councillor Jansen.
Residents are advised that it is likely there will be a slight change to the taste of water as supply shifts back to surface water, but are assured that the strict SANS241 standards remain in place and water remains perfectly safe to drink.
Water security going forward
According to the City’s modelling, there is around a 50% chance that dams will be full by the end of this winter. Current and future predictions indicate that residents will not be required to lower consumption for 2020/21 any more than they are doing already. Also new permanent augmentation schemes will be making a much more significant impact in the near future.
The City is on the verge of receiving first water from the Table Mountain Group Aquifer abstraction programme, and around 15 million litres of groundwater are currently on track to come online before the next summer period. Desalination and reuse projects are also being implemented and will come online in subsequent years.
More information on the new water program can be found on our website: www.capetown.gov.za (search water strategy).