Faced with three years of serious drought, the South African capital is ramping up its efforts to conserve and diversify its water supply.
Despite its coastal location, Cape Town is under severe water pressure. Facing its third year of serious drought, the city had to ramp up water conservation measures.
- improving efficiency standards in buildings;
- restricting non-essential water use;
- maintenance and repair programs on distribution infrastructure; and
- public awareness campaigns.
While effective to date, these measures will not be enough to stave off the worsening drought, and the city’s population – already marked with inequality and poverty – will be left vulnerable.
The city has already begun investigation into the possibility of using the Table Mountain Region aquifer and options to recycle water and desalinate seawater; all of which could be crucial to build a climate resilient city.
Cape Town is already experiencing climate vulnerability. It is hit with rainstorms, extreme hot days and drought, flash floods and extreme wind. And as the rest of South Africa also suffer, the city’s four million population is expected to expand rapidly as climate change drives rural to urban migration, with these communities often ending up in parts of the city at risk of flooding.
Such shifts could push Cape Town’s economy to the brink, including in the fishing, agriculture, infrastructure and insurance industries. In the longer term, tourism could also be impacted.
As Cape Town’s population grows, so will the demand for energy.
South Africa is hugely reliant on coal for its energy and in the capital the average carbon footprint is 5.6 tonnes per person. However, with a draft carbon tax bill, carbon offset regulations and plans to invest in 20,000MW of new renewable energy infrastructure by 2030, the shift away from fossil fuels has begun.
Such moves are expected to incentivise energy efficiency and simulate the low-carbon economy, and Cape Town is already making moves to ensure it benefits from these developments.
The city is currently negotiating with the national government to install large-scale renewable energy supply, and has a plan for a Green Industrial Zone to attract renewable energy manufacturers and maintenance companies into the city. It has a target to boost the proportion of renewable energy from zero in 2012 to 10% by 2022; with 2% currently coming from wind, solar and hydro.
With plans to reduce the city’s dependence on the national grid by 10% by 2019, diversifying its energy supply, improving energy efficiency and securing the city's water supply are all steps in the right direction, which will boost economic development and jobs in the city.
Updated September 2017.