There is no need to remind that Cape Town’s water supply situation is dire. We have level 4 water restrictions in place, water storage levels are extremely low and alternative short-term and long-term water sources are actively being sought by the city’s government – solutions such as funding a set of temporary desalination plants, and restrategizing Cape Town’s water supply system to include under-utilized groundwater.
By now, the drought “officially” lasts for over two years (in fact, 2015-2017 was the driest three-year period on record that started in the early 20th century). In the last two years, we have all been bombarded with messages with increasing level of gloom and urgency: from “dam levels at 40%” to “dam levels at 15%” to “dam levels at 11.4%”, “only 100 days of water left”, “can you live on less than 100 liters per day?”, “each person MUST use less than 100 liters per day”.
In the meantime, rainy season unfolds, and as cold front after cold front deliver winter’s rainfall to the parched city and its dams, we might feel some sense of relief. We might think: “Now, that it rains, what’s the problem with water? I can go back to ‘normal’!”. But should we? The City of Cape Town warns: “It will take at least three consecutive winters of above-average rainfall to make a real difference to the availability of surface water”. It’s a statement that is difficult to appreciate when one’s windows are pounded by (relatively) heavy rains.
To help us all understand our predicament, we at CSAG, have developed a “rainfall monitor” – an online graph that presents this season’s rainfall in the context of long-term conditions. Based on the most recent rainfall data (subject to availability, of course), one can see how the season’s total compares to that recorded in years since 1977. It’s interactive – one can choose to view rainfall time series in different ways, and relate current conditions to years one remembers. This graph is a first part of a more comprehensive system we are building which will allow for visualizing not just rainfall, but also water levels and river discharges, and not just current, but also forecast values.
So go ahead, explore this tidbit in the sea of (climate) information. Learn about your climate and its variability. Think about its implications to your every-day life…