STOP: Hold on tight
THE City of Cape Town delayed water desalination projects despite the ongoing drought and diminishing surface water supplies, a move that has placed residents at risk of water shortages.

The city’s deputy mayor, Ian Neilson, confirmed this with Weekend Argus yesterday, saying it had not been possible to undertake the projects earlier.

Neilson said this was because of “uncertain rainfall predictions for winter, and the risk of over-capacitating the system at a significant cost to the ratepayer.

“The city started procurement of emergency supply schemes as soon as we had a reasonable idea of what augmentation would be required going into (the current) summer,” he said.

The city is now racing against Day Zero - when taps are predicted to run dry on April 16 due to surface water shortages - by building two desalination plants.

The contracts for short-term desalination plants at Monwabisi and Strandfontein were awarded to a joint venture by Water Solutions and Proxa.

These two plants are expected to produce water by next month, will run for two years only and will not meet the long-term water security challenges. Neilson said the city had appointed Quality Filtration Systems to run a third desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront.

But at the Cape Town Press Club this week the national Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said she wanted to appoint Umgeni Water.

This has thrown a spanner in the works, as the city now needs to review its process, said Neilson.

“Before the minister issued this directive, there was already a process in motion to install a desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront and this project is on track to begin producing water, 2million litres a day, by March,” said Neilson.

“The minister’s directive that the city appoint Umgeni Water to install a desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront is now being reassessed. The city plans to engage the department on their proposal to clarify some aspects.”

Neilson said this included the “choice of location as before the minister issued this directive there was already a process in motion to install a desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront and the land is not owned by the city”.

Neilson said the city also needed to assess how Umgeni would operate, as the following points were unclear:

Whether any environmental impact assessment has been conducted.

How the operational costs are to be managed.

The appointment of Umgeni