Listen: Adam Lovell in Conversation with Stephen O’Doherty
Unbelievable, unfathomable, incredible there are superlatives aplenty to describe the looming water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa. What is scarce in this city of four million people is rain. They have been waiting years for a good downpour to fill their dams but a years long drought persists and the water restrictions become ever tighter.
It is hard to reconcile the idea of a thriving modern city and with the highly likely possibility the municipal water supply will dry up.
That day is called “Day Zero” and it is really as scary as it sounds. Day Zero has been postponed several times because of community adherence to water saving measures and the release of water normally used by large irrigators.
Like something you would expect in a bleak dystopian future, the city of Cape Town will literally turn off the taps on Day Zero and the water allocation per person will halve from an already meagre 50 litres down to 25 litres. Water will be available at 200 communal points around the city that will be guarded around the clock by the military.
Adam Lovell is the Executive Director of the Water Services Association of Australia , the peak body for Australian water utilities says there are no climate change sceptics in the water industry and we can expect this sort of issue to arise again. In fact, he cautions, we shouldn’t be too quick to be smug at Cape Town’s expense.
Like South Africa, Australia is a dry country which has struggled to reconcile the need to supply water to cities with the forces of nature.
He says a delegation from Cape Town will visit Water Services Australia this month and our experience in solving water supply issues during drought and with limited options, especially in Perth, will be useful.
In fact, he says that here in Australia, and around the world, the public may have to reconsider solutions like recycled water which has a big yuck factor for consumers but is actually a clean and sustainable alternative as we face the reality of climate change.