Strandfontein residents advised to expect slight change in water taste as the Strandfontein temporary desalination plant has been decommissioned. Picture: City of Cape Town/ Supplied
Strandfontein residents advised to expect slight change in water taste as the Strandfontein temporary desalination plant has been decommissioned. Picture: City of Cape Town/ Supplied

Strandfontein desalination plant decommissioned by City of Cape Town

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Jun 22, 2020

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Cape Town - The Stranfontein temporary desalination plant was decommissioned by the City of Cape Town last Wednesday after providing 3,8 billion litres to the city over a period of two years.

Two years on from the commissioning of the Strandfontein desalination plant, during the worst drought in Cape Town’s recorded history, the City said that it has "as acquired valuable knowledge" and is now "confident that we are capable of successfully pursuing the large scale desalination project".

Commissioned in May/June 2018 - with Day Zero looming - 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. 

Mayco Member for Water and Waste, Xanthea Limberg said that 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”.

Limberg added that the decommissioning of the desalination place was a first for the City, and the experience of the past two years has taught officials 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 Limberg.

The Strandfontein temporary desalination plant was decommissioned a month earlier than scheduled, at the contractor’s request, due to demand for modular desalination elsewhere in the world. Limberg explained that after consideration, “as there is no cost incurred by the City as well as the negligible impact this would have on water security”, the City 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.

Mayco Member for Water and Waste, Xanthea Limberg, along with Subcouncil chairperson and ward councillors Elton Jansen and Joan Woodman, visited the Strandfontein temporary desalination plant on Wednesday. Picture: Supplied
Strandfontein residents advised to expect slight change in water taste as the Strandfontein temporary desalination plant has been decommissioned. The temporary plant was decommissioned at midnight on Wednesday. Picture: Supplied

The area on which the plant was built will be restored to its former condition. An Environmental Control Officer will monitor the rehabilitation work.

“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 Limberg.

Subcouncil chairperson and ward councillor Elton Jansen added: “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.”

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

Limberg added that 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 the City's website: www.capetown.gov.za (search water strategy).

Cape Argus

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