City of Cape Town Planning to Build R1.8 Billion Permanent Desalination Plant

The City of Cape Town plans to build a permanent desalination plant, costing R1.8 billion.

The City said it had already actioned its Water Strategy as 15 million litres of groundwater had come online from the Table Mountain Group Aquifer daily, while other projects including permanent desalination and water reuse were also planned.

Mayco member for water and waste services Xanthea Limberg said: “The temporary desalination plants at Strandfontein and Monwabisi were constructed as emergency water supplies at the height of the drought crisis have both been decommissioned by the contractor in terms of contractual requirements.

“The City also gained valuable knowledge and experience that will be incorporated into the planning and operation of the larger, planned permanent plant.”

It is provisionally programmed to commence water production by the end of 2026, Limberg said.

“The fixed component of the tariff covers approximately 20% to 25% of the water costs. If this was dropped, the consumptive tariff would have to be increased to compensate. No profit is made from the sale of water, and the City strives to keep costs as low as possible,” she said.

The Western Cape experienced a severe drought during 2017 and 2018, and dams almost emptied in terms of usable water. Residents were preparing to line up for water rations distributed by the South African Defense Force. Due to a continued global increase in emissions, climate change is altering weather patterns around the world for the worse, and urgent action is needed.

In September last year, it was reported the City was looking to build another desalination plant to become water-resilient by 2026. The City is considering the development and commissioning of a permanent desalination plant with a capacity of 50 million litres per day by 2026.

In response to the drought, the Strandfontein, Monwabisi and V&A desalination plants were commissioned for a two-year period as part of the City’s Water Resilience Plan, now referred to as the New Water Plan. A combined total of 14 million litres a day were supplied from these plants.

The City has maintained the fixed charge contributes to the fixed costs for operating the water and sanitation service and that fixed charges for basic utility services are in place in municipalities nationwide.

UCT Future Water Research Institute’s interim director Kirsty Carden said the need for a permanent desalination plant would depend on how the demand for water in the city changed over time.

“The ‘Day Zero’ crisis highlighted the fragility of a water system that is dependent primarily on one source (rain-fed surface water storage) and the need for diversifying water resources for the city, to include groundwater, desalinated seawater, treated sewage effluent and storm water harvesting as a means of building resilience.

“It is likely that permanent desalination will have to be included in this suite of planning options at some stage. Through their New Water Strategy, as well as the Resilience Strategy, the City has already acknowledged that a different approach is needed to managing water resources towards building a water-sensitive city.”


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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].