The City of Cape Town denounces iceberg solution to water crisis

Sloane envisages his idea as a supplementary short-term solution to the city’s water crisis. (AlessandroBianchi/Reuters)

Sloane envisages his idea as a supplementary short-term solution to the city’s water crisis. (AlessandroBianchi/Reuters)

With Day Zero still a real threat for Cape Town’s immediate future, salvage expert Nick Sloane has come up with a novel solution: lasso an iceberg.

“We have a crisis and If we have a dry winter, the city is not going to be ready with long term planning by next year so this is something to try and help fill the gap,” Sloane said.

According to Bloomberg, water consumption has decreased from 1.2-billion litres a day three years ago to 519-million litres a day currently. Despite this, the city aims to cut down consumption further to 450-million litres in order to conserve the dwindling resource.

The iceberg would theoretically provide approximately 130-million litres of water to Cape Town a day for one full year, helping supplement Cape Town’s future water restoration plans. The city is already planning on “increasing groundwater abstraction, desalination, and capacity to treat and reuse wastewater,” said new Cape Town mayor Ian Nielson said.

READ MORE: Researchers warn ‘purified’ Cape Town sea water will be contaminated

With recent winter rainfall below average, Sloane planned to tow an iceberg located off the coast of Antarctica to South Africa using the ocean’s natural currents.
From the late summer until December, Sloane and his team will prepare a geotextile skirt to wrap the iceberg in, which will provide insulation, “slowing melt rates.” They will also need those months to track and pre-select an iceberg that is large and tabular enough to fit the conditions, he explained. Ideally, he hopes to tether an iceberg that is one kilometre in length, 500 meters wide and 220 meters from top to bottom.

Once they’ve chosen an iceberg, Sloane and his team plan to travel to its location, wrap it in the geotextile skirt and lead it to the Cape using a boat. The tow will take 75 to 90 days, at a pace of about two kilometres an hour. On its passage, the iceberg is expected to lose about 7% of its water.

After the iceberg arrives near Saldanha in the Cape, around Easter 2019, they plan to extract water from the ice down into tankers 24 hours a day that will carry the water to Cape Town’s ports, where the city will then pump water into its main infrastructure. 60 million litres of water will “melt naturally” while 70 million litres will be milled and bulldozed.

Sloane envisages his idea as a supplementary short-term solution to the city’s water crisis. “This is something that can come in as a first aid bandage to what their plans are,” he said.

However, the city of Cape Town’s acting executive mayor Ian Neilson said in a statement, “This proposal has not been deemed suitable for Cape Town.”

“Such a project is both complex and risky with an anticipated very high water cost. The greatest challenge relates to containment and transportation of the melt water as well as its subsequent injection into the water supply system,” the alderman said.

Currently it costs the city R5,20 per kilolitre from current surface water schemes. Sloanes plan would cost the city R29 per kilolitre “excluding the cost of infrastructure required to get the melt water into the system, which is likely to be substantial.”

Sloane still hopes that the city will agree to his proposal as Capetonians pray for a wet winter.

Arielle Schwartz

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