NEW NORM: Bonné de Bod.Picture: Susan Scott
NEW NORM: Bonné de Bod.Picture: Susan Scott

#EveryDropCounts: Soon, water's Day Zero will affect entire world

By Bonné de Bod Time of article published Feb 21, 2018

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Most people know me for my love of rhinos, but watching sport is another enjoyment of mine. I guess it gives me the opportunity to escape from the complexities of the rhino poaching world and the horrific scenes I’m faced with daily in the edit suite while cutting my film STROOP on the rhino poaching crisis.

In fact this past week we’ve started the edit earlier just so I can have some time at home to transfer myself to the freezing -14ºC temperatures at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

I have to say I do feel for the brave spectators who are trying their best to keep warm with heating pads, blankets and knitted hats but at least there is real snow on the slopes.

RELATED: #EveryDropCounts: World's use of water outstripping population

The two previous Olympics in 2010 and 2014 in Vancouver and Sochi, respectively, were not cold enough and the snow on the ski slopes was literally melting away. Bales of straw had to be used on the slopes, and covering them was a mixture of real and artificial snow.

Despite all this, Olympic athletes complained that poor snow led to unfair conditions which affected their performance.

So it’s no surprise that the spectacular opening ceremony in PyeongChang, and even the talent on display in the various events, have been overshadowed by the attention on something very different climate change.

Out of the previous 21 Winter Olympic host cities, only eight would be able to host it now, after the hottest decade on record.

Simply put, the other cities would just be too hot to handle the games, even with technology like snow-makers, the banking of snow and laying down pipes packed with dry ice to keep the snow on the slopes from melting.

Now you’re probably wondering why this is of any importance to us here in South Africa, over 13000km from all the slope action. Well, because we might enter the history books as the first major city in the world to run out of water, an indirect consequence of climate change.

We all know that Cape Town has been in the grips of a three-year drought, but it’s been quite something to see the home of Table Mountain making world news on BBC World, Sky News and CNN for its water woes.

The vibe in the city has been suppressed by a serious reality approaching called Day Zero - a day that will see Capetonians open the tap and see nothing come out. But everyone was able to breathe a sigh of relief (for now) when the announcement came that D-Day had been pushed back to July 9.

This is indeed great news and the celebrations on social media were palpable, but the fact is, we shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place.

The signs of climate change have been around us for a long time, so how can a city facing its worst drought in almost 100 years still rely on the clouds to open up to fill the dams?

And should one really wait for three years before you declare a serious situation like this a national disaster?

It is inevitable that when something this massive goes wrong, a simple firing or redeployment is just not good enough for the bewildered public.

So the seemingly well-run city of Cape Town started playing the "blame game" I will leave the politics to the politicians but what I can say is that environmental uncertainty is the only certainty we have.

Nearly two years ago, I did a story for SABC’s 50/50 where I travelled the country looking at agricultural usage of water.

Our farmers use 84% of our fresh water, and the writing was clearly on the wall then when farmers showed me their water saving and harvesting systems.

Back then, they told me that the climate has altered their farming techniques considerably and that if they didn’t change their methods they would just not have crops.

Just after Minister (of Cooperative Governance) Des van Rooyen in his role as chair of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on drought expertly observed that: “Drought conditions were a result of natural phenomenon that were characterised by below normal rainfalls and increased maximum temperatures and heatwaves”.

We know this. We all know this, the Olympic organisers know this and they plan for the fact that climate will affect their sporting event in the future.

We have to plan for the fact that climate will continue to affect South Africa and it’s not just “below normal” or “phenomena”. Science tells us this and it’s worrying that only sporting bodies are taking this as a norm. We can’t only take action when we face a Day Zero.

With the Winter Olympics nearly over and the World Cup approaching in June, it’s important to note that scientists are worried about Russia’s ability to host the event if another catastrophic heatwave takes place like the one that hit the country last year and in the summer of 2010.

That particular “weather event” in 2010 was responsible for 37°C temperatures in Siberia and over 50000 deaths in Russia.

World scientists have warned that these would not be extremes but the norm in future.

* Bonné de Bod is an award-winning wildlife and environmental TV presenter and film-maker. She is currently in the midst of editing a three-year feature documentary on the rhino poaching crisis, STROOP (Poached), due for release this year.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus

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