Experts Have A Bold Solution To Cape Town’s Water Shortage


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

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Cape Town is currently in the grips of the region’s worst water shortage in living memory, with each day steadily dripping towards “Day Zero”, the dreaded date Cape Town could become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Not all hope is lost, however. Nick Sloane, a Cape Town local, has proposed a bold plan to drag drifting icebergs to the South African coast in the hopes of replenishing the city’s parched reservoirs.


Sloane’s game plan involves catching icebergs that have drifted across the South Atlantic Ocean towards South Africa. The team could then wrap passing icebergs in a “geo-textile fabric skirt” and tow them towards the city using large tanker ships via the Benguela Current. Once it’s arrived in the port city, the icebergs would be chopped up into a slurry and melted into millions of liters of drinking water.

Cape Town's largest reservoir, Theewaterskloof, in March 2018. Zaian/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

“We want to show that if there is no other source to solve the water crisis, we have another idea no one else has thought of yet,” Sloane, the CEO of a US marine salvage firm, told Reuters.

It sounds pretty ambitious, but if there’s one guy for the job, it’s Sloane and his company. He was one of the main marine salvage experts tasked with recovering the capsized Italian passenger liner Costa Concordia back in 2012 to 2014.

"We spoke to local government late last year; they thought it was a crazy idea," Sloane said, speaking to CNN. However, he added that it’s considerably more credible than other proposals, such as bringing water down from the heavily polluted Congo River in Central Africa.

Declining water storage levels over the course of the Cape Town water crisis. Data obtained from the Climate Systems Analysis Group. Discott CC BY-SA 4.0.

Cape Town’s water crisis has been lingering for a number of years, with 2015 to 2017 providing some of the driest years on record. Previously, the city thought they would run out of water as early as April 2018. That day has fortunately been pushed back to an unspecified date in 2019. When that day comes, the authorities will be forced to turn off all water taps.

Still, it remains a burning problem, with few viable solutions in sight. The current protocol is for citizens to cut down on water consumption to less than 50 liters (13 gallons) a day by not flushing toilets as often and reusing water whenever possible. As for a long-term solution, there’s plenty of proposals, but not much in the way of action.

Meanwhile, the city’s reservoirs eagerly wait for rain.


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