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 • By : Johan Burger, I-Comm Chair BKCOB
The greater East London area, or Buffalo City area, has three large dams in the catchment area that generally serve / supply water to the areas. These dams are: Wriggelswade Dam, the Nahoon Dam and the Bridal Drift Dam.
When one compares these three dams to the largest dam in South Africa, the Gariep Dam which is located in the Free State then the three dams are quite small by comparison. The Gariep Dam, being the biggest dam in South Africa, has 5 340 000 megalitre capacity, bearing in mind that a megalitre is equivalent to 1million litres. In comparison, the average size swimming pool holds around 60,000 litres of water.
Unfortunately due to the severe drought situation in the province (reported to be the worst in 100 years) as well as the impacts of climate change / global warming , the average dam levels of the 3 major dams in the area has dropped to around just above 40% (very low for this time of the year) . Water restrictions have already been introduced in the Buffalo City area and Port Elizabeth are looking at introducing drastic measures to reduce the city’s water consumption by only allowing 50 litres per day per person.
Could it be possible , or would it be possible for Buffalo City area , to rely on potable water being sourced from a “desalination plant, or , a reverse osmosis plant“, extracting sea water , through a process extracting the brine and converting this through a specialist screening process into potable, drinking water ?
What about some of the other coastal towns in South Africa? Have they / are they considering putting in desalination plants to augment / supplement their current potable water supplies? Or have they already taken the step ahead?
Knysna already has a 2 Mega Litre per day desalination plant that supplies potable water to the city. The plant is very well located, and the brine is returned to the water treatment plant. This is all in accordance with the SANS 241 specification for drinking water.
Mossel Bay is next on our radar. They have already installed a 15 Mega Litre per day desalination plant (which I have already visited and viewed). This was done to mitigate the risk of the town and industries running out of water! Is this not a risk that Buffalo City could face sometime in the future? The great advantage here of the 15 Mega litre per day desalination plant at Mossel Bay was that it improved water security.
There are several advantages and disadvantages of desalination plants / reverse osmosis plants which we will not consider for now but suffice to mention that several major cities around the world have installed desalination plants including : Kurnell in Sydney, Australia which has a 250 mega litre per day facility, which supplies around 15% of the current water demand . Aruba Island in the middle east has an 11.1 million gallons of water per day plant.
Will we ever see a desalination plant in East London supplying some of the cities potable water needs?
We will just have to wait and see what the city fathers decide. Maybe it is on the radar in the Master Plan that the city has drawn up. As a matter of interest, China has a 50-year master plan for the country. Could we follow suit in SA?
The NDP (National Development Plan) is a great plan as well. Wonderful to see it being implemented.
We are all encouraged to use water sparingly. We are after all a water scarce country with a big lake (ocean) on our doorstep!