Construction has begun on the City of Cape Town’s first desalination plant in Strandfontein near Mitchell’s Plain. Officials conducted a site visit to assess the progress.

Cape Town would be the first major city in the world to run out of water. Now in an attempt to stave off Day Zero which is set for 16 April, the city has started numerous water augmentation projects. Desalination which is a process of removing the salt from seawater and making it drinkable is one of those water resilience projects which the city has embarked on.

Being a coastal city, many have asked why the drought-stricken city did not consider desalination earlier. Mayoral Committee Member for Water, Xanthea Limberg, is adamant that they were not sleeping on the idea.

“The installation of a desalination plant cannot happen overnight. We have essentially been able to deliver this scale of work within periods of months and this is in addition to the authorisations and licenses that one needs to obtain, as well as procurement systems which the city has followed.”

The desalination plant located at the Strandfontein Pavilion is one of three around the city. Another one is at Monwabisi Beach as well as at the V&A Waterfront.

The Strandfontein plant is expected to produce two million litres of water a day by the end of March.

Desalination Project Manager, Wynand Wessels, says the output will increase to seven million litres a day by the end of May, when the project enters its second phase.

“First thing is to extract the water from the ocean with a subsea pipe that gets pumped to the plant station which is sitting at the parking area there, that process involves removing grit from the water and then clean the water to drinking water then using the same system we return everything else back to the ocean without interrupting the sea life or ocean floor.”

The City says drilling into the Cape Flats aquifer is also progressing well.

The city’s Empowerment Drilling and Remediation Sales’ Derek Whitfield says, “The well was drilled yesterday (Wednesday) and it produces between four and five million litres of water a day on blow yield which means we are still flushing after drilling it.”

Level 6B water restrictions came into effect on Thursday. It restricts residents to 50-litres of water per person per day. Those who use more will receive hefty fines.

Cape Town has assured the public that all water augmentation projects that include aquifers, are on track in a bid to avoid Day Zero when taps are likely to run dry.

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