Waiting for the rain

Cape Town's biggest dam lies close to empty due to severe drought. (Image credit: Rodger Bosch / AFP)

Cape Town’s biggest dam lies close to empty due to severe drought. (Image credit: Rodger Bosch / AFP)

In case you haven’t heard, one of the world’s most popular tourist spots – Cape Town – is almost out of water. The crisis has developed over recent years – with severe drought (the worst in recorded history), massive population growth (without matching increase in water supply), political shenanigans, and other factors all playing a role.

Day Zero

As it stands, we sit with just over 2 months until the authorities will turn off water supply to most of the city; an event termed as “Day Zero”. Capetonians will then have to queue at collection points daily to collect just 25 litres per person – which is deemed the bare minimum for us to survive. How long that will last is anyone’s guess, but the hope is that the Winter rains – along with augmentation projects (limited desalination and aquifer extraction) – will provide enough to get us back on our feet after some time.

The thought is terrifying, and in recent weeks, a full-on frenzy has developed, with residents rushing to stockpile bottled water, in addition to the long-standing scramble for alternative water sources – with well points and rain tanks being wildly in demand.

Who (or what) is to blame?

Some blame the politicians – who have failed to manage the crisis effectively. The fact that our local government is run by the country’s official opposition party has meant that national government (whose Water department is far in debt already) has not provided the assistance it should have, leaving a narrative of the city being left to fend for itself. And while the politicians bicker over who to blame, us normal residents just want to be assured that those we pay taxes to are doing their jobs and using the money to save us from this impending disaster. An expectation which, in South Africa, is laughable – given the level of corruption that exists within the current national political leadership.

Others roll out conspiracy theories, blaming capitalists for manipulating the situation to suck us dry, or Zionists using this as a means of establishing or furthering control in the area (since the local government’s party allegedly has strong Zionist ties).

Of course, climate change is also a commonly-blamed culprit – seeing that the core reason for the lack of water is persistently lower than normal rainfall in recent years. Tying into that, the idea of weather manipulation (look up ‘cloud seeding’) could also be involved – with the idea that those nations who engage in this deprive other nations of their rightful rain (given that there’s only a finite amount of potable water on the planet).

Another interesting viewpoint coming up is how the privileged are panicking now because they won’t have running water; while those in the nearby townships and other lower income groups have always had to live with such limitations – many not even having modern day sewerage systems in their neighbourhoods.

Silver linings

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. I’m always encouraged by how – in times of disaster – humanity unites and shows the best of itself. Think of the biggest natural and man-made disasters of the last few decades, and how people all over the world came together to raise funds and provide assistance for those affected.

It’s already happening here, with charity organisations and others mobilising to collect water from other parts of the country to send to Cape Town. And, with ever-tightening water restrictions over the past year or so, many Capetonians have become much more conscious of how precious water is, and we’ve cut usage drastically – not only using less, but also learning to recycle water. These kinds of eco-friendly behaviour changes generally don’t happen among large populations unless it’s forced on them, so it’s a positive that we should really be grateful for.

We’ll make it through, God-willing

Lowering usage, however, is not enough. The reality is that we’re in dire straights here in Cape Town. Unless something drastic happens soon, it looks like we’ll become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

There are man-made solutions already underway – such as aquifer drilling and desalination. But these projects have the potential to cause environmental harm, and in the case of desalination, they are prohibitively expensive…especially for a ‘Third World’ country such as ours. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has recently decided to build nine new desalination plants – at a cost of 2 billion riyals.

We need rain – and lots of it. The shortest solution would be consistent, torrential-type rains to flood our dams and catchment areas. A longer term solution would simply be above average rainfall over the coming Winters.

Whether either will come, nobody knows. But hope springs eternal, and we continue to pray for the Almighty to shower abundant, beneficial rain upon us.

Wherever you are in the world, please take a few moments to pray for us down here in Cape Town. Us, and every other region struggling with drought.

Supplications for rain

Remember Who is in control

Humans will always try to find a reason for these disasters, and – rightly so – come up with solutions. But the reality is that drought is a stark reminder that although we live on this planet and act as though we own it, the Almighty is the true Owner and Controller of everything.

No matter what humans do, and regardless of any climate change or natural phenomena, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, all worlds, and absolutely everything, is the One Who can save us from any and every disaster.

8 thoughts on “Waiting for the rain

  1. SubhanAllah, this sounds scary, rain is such a blessing and so is access to water which we take for granted on a daily basis. May Allah set make it easy for you all, and bless you with many a beneficial rains, ameen.

  2. I saw the satellite images of the ongoing crisis over there on the local papers today. May Allah grant you and your people there safety and abundant rainfall to keep the place sustained. Indeed He is able to do all things. Also, this could be a good story for you to write and at the same time educate people on the importance of water in our lives.

  3. It really sounds terrifying… and I think to a large extent, most people just can’t believe that it’s true… hence the initial non-compliance and nonchalance followed by frenzy and sudden panic. My sister lives in Cape Town, so I hear about how bad it is. Inshallah, there will be abundant, beneficial rain soon.

  4. Ameen to all your duas.

    Of course, another form of relief would be if national government finally kicked into gear and did what it is supposed to…which is perhaps a bit more realistic now given the magnitude of the situation, and leadership changes up there.

    The terror, for me, is not so much on the actual amount of water – but the side effects. Primarily, the sewerage system is a huge concern. That, and the possibility that food prices will rocket, and people will stockpile food in the same way as they’re doing with water right now. They’re going crazy buying 5 litre water bottles as soon as the stores have stock. We can survive on less water, but if the rich or powerful monopolise and hoard food, then it’s more and more like a doomsday scenario, unfortunately. I expect chaos and crime to be a real possibility as those who don’t have start raiding those who are hoarding…and riots, etc.

    Azra: Your Saudi friends are building a whole lot of new desalination plants…any chance you could convince them to donate one to us? 😉

    (I say that not completely jokingly…if you have some semblance of influence with the right people there, international co-operation could kick in.)

  5. I can always find out… I’ll look around for a good contact. You can’t just trust anyone here. People have a tendency not to follow through with their ideas / promises.

      • I have an update for you. Apparently the guy who initially began desalination here in KSA was South African!! This was way back, a few decades or something like that. A lot of the Agricultural Industry here is run by old boere so it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. So I’m sure if the government was really invested in doing something about the drought in CT, they could have contacted someone. Will see what else I can find out.

      • Thanks. I saw a South African got some of the tenders for the new batch of Saudi plants. Unfortunately I suspect it’s due to political reasons that our local government hasn’t used his expertise. Heck, even Israel uses South African people in desalination. So it’s either a case of political priorities, or straight up incompetence.

        In this country, it’s not easy to tell sometimes. ..

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