Cape of Storms

That’s the name given to Cape Town, in the late 1400s, by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias: Cabo das Tormentas.  4 million people live here and, while many of us know it by different names in various languages, this epithet has particular resonance right now.

south africa

Our winters are usually wet, wild and stormy – but we had very low rainfall during this past winter, and the dams were low to start with. The result is a severe water shortage. Fingers are being pointed at politicians and administrators and, if some experts are to be believed, we will have run out of water by March 2018. If you are planning to holiday in South Africa this Christmas season, especially down here on the coast, you’re going to be constantly reminded not to waste a drop. The City of Cape Town municipality is urging us all not to flush toilets unless absolutely essential, and to shower only once in every two or three days, among other things. A dirty car is now a sign that you are “doing your bit”, and grey (water) is the new black.

I came across this clip by Chronicle Digital via The Daily Maverick, which I’m posting here for any South African readers who may have missed it, but also because it presents some images of this country that do not usually feature in travel commercials and tourist advertisements. I hope you find them interesting.

PS. The water that you see people filling the 5-litre bottles with is coming straight off Table Mountain from a natural stream. It is marvellous and free – but again, a privilege for only those of us who have (a) a car, (b) money for petrol, (c) the time to collect it. And even then, I have witnessed fights break out in the queues to get to the spring’s openings! 


18 thoughts on “Cape of Storms

  1. katechiconi

    We’ve been hearing the old “if it’s yellow, let it mellow…” etc, jingle until very recently, when a nice series of cloudbursts has gone some way to refilling the reservoirs. Gone are the days when every Australian house had its own rainwater tank. It’s getting more common for people to be putting them back in where they have space. Not before time, I’d say…

  2. The Snail of Happiness

    What a fascinating film… it seems that politicians are the same the world over. I sincerely hope that the long-term solution is not thought to be groundwater extraction, as this leads to all sorts of other problems (see California).
    At least I’m feeling a bit more positive about our drizzle now.

    1. Nice Piece of Work Post author

      As far as I understand, groundwater extraction is not an option. Management is looking at desalination plants or tapping into the aquifer under Table Mountain. First option: may take too long and cost too much. Second option: there is much debate on the long-term benefits.

  3. Rainbow Junkie

    Sorry to hear about your lack of water. We seem to have plenty here (=too much) although I think it is a matter of frequency not volume as I remember people talking about potential lack of water a while back.

      1. Rainbow Junkie

        We have had ‘droughts’ in times past with hose pipe bans and requests to cut down on water usage. Industry uses a lot of water I think and rain doesn’t always fall in the right places.

  4. Pingback: Three Things Thursday: 26 October 2017 | The Snail of Happiness

  5. Linne

    A very interesting video. It’s interesting that people all over the world are so ill-informed about water-saving and other thrifty lifestyle habits. My mother grew up in southern Saskatchewan, on a farm with very alkaline water, and Grandpa drove the team to a neighbour’s every week to bring back drinking and cooking water. The well water was reserved for stock and for dishes. Everyone took a ‘sponge bath’ daily and a bath in a tin tub on Saturday night. Dishes were washed without soap so the water could be given to the pig after. Wash water went on the garden. There was only an outhouse, so no ‘black’ water.

    My Dad was raised in a Mennonite family and they had the same thrifty habits.

    I lived my first years in the same way, but in BC. We didn’t have running water or an indoor toilet until I was 10, so I learned the same water-saving habits. Then when my boys were young, we lived that same life as often as I could manage it. And I learned to cook with very little water, especially in the days when I fetched my water from a brook down the road (and down a steep hill) on foot, with me carrying a gallon jug in one hand and my baby in the other arm and my five year old son carrying a wine bottle in both hands. Sounds dreadful? It wasn’t; we had so many interesting talks on those ‘nature walks’. And I used water out of a pool in our swamp for washing diapers.. .

    This summer we had four months with no rain but my cousins have an artesian well up the hill across the road. In spite of my being there and so using extra water for laundry, dishwashing, etc., we were fortunate and never ran dry. However, I maintained my old habits, having a sponge bath daily and a proper bath once a week or less (as the drought went on). shampooing hair takes me only two cups of water and I could do it with less if needed. (and my hair is fairly long). We did water the garden daily, but most of that went for edible crops. I am careful with my clothing, wearing an old T-shirt and jeans for at home and changing to a better outfit if we go out, then changing back as soon as we return. This is what we did as children, right up to when I left home at 19′ Mum couldn’t be doing laundry for eleven people, including two in diapers, in a wringer washer and hanging all out to dry, if we had used up clothes the way I see some do today. .

    And through it all, I was conscious of the droughts facing so many around the globe, and most grateful that we are not in that situation.

    An over-long comment, I’m afraid, but I wonder if anyone knows how to do these things these days ad I hope it will help some of your readers, if they live where there is severe water shortage. Of course, it’s more likely not to be seen by anyone who might find it useful. Just had to share, though. Have a good weekend, and I will do my best to send you some rain; we are just beginning to have some every few days or so. ~ Linne

    1. Nice Piece of Work Post author

      An interesting story, almost makes me feel ashamed to have taken so much for granted growing up! Your good wishes have already been heard – apparently we are due for a massive storm next week :)

      1. Linne

        Thanks, Jill. I think that is one of the things about not having too much in the way of material stuff while growing up. If we’d been rich, I’m sure we would have been as wasteful as anyone else.

        I’ll keep thinking of rain,but not storms, coming your way :-)
        And btw, could you use some heavy snow? We have plenty and are happy to share , , ,

        Take care, Jill. Love and Light to you. ~ Linne

  6. nanacathy2

    A fascinating post and video, and comment above. Knowing politicians they will demand that every authority has its own strategy plan for dealing with the problem, that way the buck is passed. here’s hoping for a rainy Spring for you.

    1. Nice Piece of Work Post author

      Our lot are good at passing the buck but, as Jan said, they sound like politicians everywhere! The Western Cape (the province in which I live) has the best reputation for excellent admin, management and services, so the water shortage issue is getting a lot of flack from the opposition! :(


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