In the middle of its ongoing problems with its desalination plants, the City is looking at building another plant to become water resilient by 2026. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - In the middle of its ongoing problems with its desalination plants, the City is looking at building another 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 (MLD) by 2026.

City spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said: Preliminary investigations into sea water quality, bulk connector infrastructure, as well as potential land, stakeholder, environmental and heritage issues associated with the six initial target sites has recently been concluded.

“At this stage, it is envisaged that two to three sites will be further investigated as part of feasibility studies.

“This will involve undertaking conceptual designs and costing of the plant and connector infrastructure, assessing financing and procurement options, and obtaining environmental and other authorisations,” he said.

He said the water strategy contemplates the development and commissioning of a permanent desalination plant. During the height of the drought crisis, the city council commissioned three temporary desalination plants at Strandfontein, Monwabisi and V&A Waterfront. These were operational by last May and an average of 14 MLD of desalinated water is currently being supplied into the water distribution system. But a number of disputes were however declared by the contractor Quality Filtration Services for the V&A Waterfront plant, which has ceased operation. The matter is now subject to a litigation. The city council spent about R60million on the V&A plant.

In a report, the city council’s water and waste department revealed in July it failed to spend the R417m meant to provide an additional supply to the city’s drinking-water resources.

“The reasons were due to the new water programme. It was created during the drought emergency period to deliver an additional supply of water.

“This resulted in projects being prepared via an ‘unusual business’ methodology and delays experienced (for example, access to properties, etc) have resulted in slower than anticipated progress in groundwater explorations in the Cape Flats, Table Mountain Group and Atlantis,” the report stated.

Tyhalibongo said: “This is mostly related to the exploration of potential groundwater sources. Initial exploration of the aquifer on land accessible to the city did not yield the results in terms of quality and quantity we were hoping for, and as such we have not been able to implement the Cape Flats groundwater abstraction project within the anticipated time frame.”

Last March, seven of the city’s eight alternative water-source projects were running behind schedule. Six were supposed to be feeding water into the system well ahead of the July 9 Day Zero projection. 

STOP COCT activist Sandra Dickson said: “As usual this decision to put up the new desalination plant and its location is done without informing the public.

“The city seems to be doing its homework this time around to test the water, environmental impact and to find a suitable location for the plant.”

She criticised the city’s other three desalination plants that were laying dormant.

“The other three desalination plants encountered many issues, such as turbidity and algae blooms, which put them out of action for periods of time. Did the city learn their lessons here? What guarantee does the public have that history will not repeat itself and that the new plant will be subjected to the same conditions?”

ANC caucus leader in the city council Xolani Sotashe said: “What we are already seeing is a waste of time and money; some of the city’s plants are not even producing properly and its pure arrogance. And it’s unfair because ratepayers are going to foot the bill”

Quality Filtrations System director Heman Smit said he found it surprising that the city would commission a plant.

“Without doing the proper testing on the water and water quality assessments we don’t think they will precede without the proper testing,” Smit said.

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Cape Argus