Expert panel advises City of Cape Town on permanent desalination plans

11th April 2023

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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An independent advisory panel (IAP) has been established by the City of Cape Town and the Water Research Commission (WRC) to deliver expert advice on the technical, scientific, socioeconomic and regulatory aspects of desalination in Cape Town.

Formed on March 1, the IAP for Desalination panel will be in place until June 30, 2024, to review all the documentation, including the feasibility studies, project work plans and reports associated with the implementation of desalination and consider stakeholder and public comments on these efforts.

This emerges as the city implements its New Water Programme, which will see an investment of about R5-billion over the next eight years, with permanent desalination one of the proposed actions outlined in the city’s Water Strategy to help build the region’s future water supply.

According to the strategy, the City of Cape Town plans to introduce 300-million litres a day of new water by 2030 from diverse sources, including groundwater, reuse and desalination, which will help build a resilient future water supply in the face of future droughts.

“The city has been investing into our New Water Programme so we can build our water resilience to navigate unpredictable climate change effects. It is vital to become less dependent on rain-fed dams so we are also investing in supply from various water sources such as groundwater, permanent desalination and reuse,” says City of Cape Town Water and Sanitation MMC Councillor Zahid Badroodien.

While desalination, compared with other options, is expensive, it has been identified as a drought-proof solution within the portfolio of water supply options, and if sustainably implemented, it can be instrumental in increasing the city’s resilience against future water crises.

The advice from the IAP, along with input from stakeholders, will be valuable in making the final decision to implement a permanent seawater desalination plant.

“Being experts in the implementation of desalination, the IAP brings valuable experiences and lessons from completed or ongoing desalination projects around the globe and in South Africa, and as such, the city is in a privileged position to receive the most informed recommendations.”

The IAP comprises 12 well-recognised professionals including scientists, engineers, public health and social science practitioners with extensive experience in the implementation of seawater desalination plants and associated processes nationally and internationally.

The work of the panel on supporting the implementation of the permanent seawater desalination plant will be independently managed by the WRC with regular reporting to the City of Cape Town.

The water will be tested according to the national drinking-water quality standard SANS 241 throughout the desalination process to ensure it is safe to drink.

Further, the lessons learnt from the city’s two temporary desalination plants, which were decommissioned when their contracts ended, will be used on the city’s journey to consider permanent desalination.

“The City of Cape Town is looking forward to the value the IAP will bring through their wide range of expertise, backgrounds and perspectives, on our journey to specifically look at permanent desalination as one of the options to diversify our water sources,” Badroodien concludes.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter




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