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 Taking the challenge of Cape Town’s water crisis- presentation to Greater Civic Alliance 23 September


What’s driving Cape Town’s water insecurity, and what can be done about it



Peninsula Paddle opens up the blue-green veins of the city

Posted on: August 1, 2017 9:22 AM



Cape Talk radio interview (18 July) on water in Cape Town’s underground tunnels

WATCH: Vlogger claims billions of litres of usable water in underground tunnels



Disrupters driving Cape Town’s water security (18 July)

The Western Cape region of South Africa is experiencing one of the worst droughts on record as a result of receiving well below average rainfall from 2015 onwards. By June 2017 the six main storage dams supplying the City of Cape Town (CoCT) were almost depleted with less than 9% of useable water available before the taps would run dry. Cape Town is almost entirely dependent on stored surface water and is facing disaster if it receives no significant rainfall over the remaining winter period or if the city’s planned pilot projects are unable to add any sufficient supplies to the system in the short term, e.g. desalination, treated effluent and abstraction from aquifers.

Water justice 10

…It is like drawing comfort from looking in the rear view mirror on the journey and then being confronted by an oncoming vehicle coming in the opposite direction in the same lane as shown by the drawing. The road looks better from behind as opposed to the challenge of changing future prospects ahead.

Read the full article here: Disrupters driving Cape Town water security


South African communities of faith: a vision for addressing Water Injustice in South Africa (12 July)

Water Justice Conference, St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town: March 2017

An overview of the final workshop

We are living in a broken, divided South Africa that is facing multiple issues including water injustice and socio-economic drought that affects human and environmental rights. South Africa is a water scarce country that is even more challenging because of the legacies of Apartheid that remain deeply entrenched in the struggle for a large rural majority in accessing clean, safe water.

Water justice 9 v2

Streams of water are transformed by communities of faith when values and belief systems inform rightful actions [Artwork credits: Chip Snaddon, 2017]

Read the full article here: South African communities of faith – A vision for addressing Water Injustice in South Africa


Interview with John Maytham, Cape Talk radio in response to article below:


“Water drill risks poisoning the wells” 24 March 2017: this is poor journalism where I am misquoted. An article cobbled together from a number of others articles that I have written on my blog site. A poorly written, confusing article. We want to work with journalists, but false reporting is not acceptable.


What we’ve learnt from the drought (UCT news 22 March 2017)



Lessons from the drought (Cape Talk radio 22 March – World Water Day)



Media Statement by the City of Cape Town’s executive Mayor Patricia de Lille

City continues proactive water demand management and medium to long term planning. Read the full statement here.MAYORS PRESS STATEMENT ON WATER MANAGEMENT 28 FEB 2017


Water sensitive urban design in practice: how do we bring down the deficit  caused by overshooting the use of potable water?

Watch the video link first, then see how this applies to Water Sensitive Development (WSD), i.e. practicing stormwater and rainfall harvesting, greywater use, treated effluent and the use of other options. It is about removing the dependency on stressed surface storage systems (Cape Town municipality relies on 98.5% of its water from dams).


Turton & Olsson_adapted 2
Diagram modified from Ohlsson and Turtin (1999)


Adapting to water scarcity

Since February 2017 Capetonians have had to deal with tighter controls over a dwindling water supply. How low can they go before limited supplies are unhealthy?

The last five years of rainfall measured at the Cape Town International Airport has been 30% below the average compared to the years from 1979 to 2000 (378 mm per annum as opposed to 527 mm). The city is drier. Read more… Adapting to water scarcity in the Western Cape


Environmental scientist supports CT mayor’s disaster water crisis call  [Cape Talk radio interview]

28 February 2017 4:42 PM

When the taps run dry

‘When the well is dry we know the value of water’ – Benjamin Franklin

The extreme scenario: dams and rivers are dry and conventional piped water and sewerage systems no longer flow. Then what?

It begins with a desperate search…[Read more] when-the-taps-run-dry



Pledge Nature Reserve, Knysna: a precious gem for urban drainage

A short report on the opportunities for implementing sustainable urban drainage and building a more water sensitive Knysna. This report follows a day workshop held at the Knysna Municipality on 1 December 2016 followed by field visit to the Pledge Nature Reserve. …[Read more] sustainable-urban-drainage-in-knysna_feb2017


This water crisis won’t be Cape Town’s last

It’s time to implement long-term strategies in the face of climate change and population growth

Water resources in Western Cape (SABC interview 15 Feb 2017)



Real time monitoring of water flow from an information settlement (4 Feb 2017)

Big breakthrough today. After months of developing different level sensors at the Water Hub, we installed a new one in a stormwater channel in the informal settlement of Langrug, Franschhoek. We can now monitor flows in real time. Thanks to UCT Enviro Science students, Elect Eng students and the Genius of Space project. Possibly a first for South Africa – a low cost electronic sensor, logger and transmitter. We want to know how flows change daily, weekly and during rainfall events.



Future water options from within the Cape Flats Aquifer: poorly understood risks (2 Feb 2017 – World Wetlands Day)

Cape Town’s pre-winter rainfall cannot come quickly enough in this drought stricken region. Since 2015 records show a below average rainfall for the southern Cape which has result in a reduced storage capacity of the major dams supplying the City of Cape Town, together with some smaller towns and the agricultural sector. The succession of droughts since 2000 is now a familiar occurrence. This is the third drought since 2000 – we have been here before. The reality is that an over reliance on surface water supply, treated to potable standards, is longer sustainable in meeting the total water demand…[Read more] the-cfa-an-extension-wetland-system


Waiting for the Rains: Cape Town in the grip of a drought (23 Jan 2017)

Cape Town residents are increasingly familiar with the constraints of water use. The region is in the grip of the third major drought since 2001. In April 2005, for example, the water storage capacity of the main supply dams reached an all-time low of just 26% overall. In this case, the City of Cape Town had already imposed …[Read more]cape-town_waiting-for-the-rain-january-2017


Book launch: Hydraulic Fracturing of the Karoo (13 December) -5 minute speech by Kevin (panellist)

Hydraulic Fracturing in the Karoo – Book Launch Tuesday 14 December, Law Faculty Quad (Level 3)

Kevin Winter

EGS Department, UCT

At the outset I wish to add my congratulations to the authors, editors and publishers of this book. It has arrived at a critical moment in South Africa’s quest for energy, which is closely linked to jobs and development, and on a more sobering note in some quarters, the insatiable appetite for wealth….[Read more] notes-on-fracking-for-book-launch

The final chapter sums up the position that we find ourselves with all the limitations of our knowledge and inability to predict the impacts of hydraulic fracturing. We need a risk averse and cautious approach that takes into account the limitations of our current knowledge. I conclude that we need a pause button. For 20 000 years people have adapted to the bioclimatic constraints of the Karoo and it will be a tragedy if the water resources of the Karoo are compromised for future generations while in pursuit of non-renewable energy sources. Read this book and share it with the decision makers and investors – it just might help to do things differently and in a more sustainable way. This is its contribution to thinking and future practice.


Cape Town’s Water Restrictions: too little too late? (November 2016)

After one week of Level 3 water restrictions in Cape Town, many residents are likely to be feeling the strain of watering their gardens by hand. Not only is it hard work but it requires a significant behavioural adjustment. This appears to be the first time that Cape Town residents have had to fall in line with such drastic water saving measures that are required by law in the city….read more here: water-restrictions_too-little-too-late_final


Imagining the Princess: workshop to develop vision for Princess Vlei, Cape Town – 8 October 2016

Such a privilege to meet with members of the Princess Vlei Forum on Saturday for a workshop and discussion on developing the vlei and surrounding area as a public site for recreation, cultural experience, and to reconnect people with nature and rich social history of this area. Thoroughly enjoyed lively discussions with passionate people whose stories and experiences of the vlei (lake) make this one of hotspots to watch in the future as it develops into a rich heritage site and an important connecting link for healing the wounds of Apartheid in the city. See more: PV Forum homepage


The Water Hub at Franschhoek

This project has just begun as a new innovation, research, demonstration and training centre for treating contaminated water with nature, growing food in an urban setting, and uses renewable energy.  Its an exciting long term project that is set to inspire a new generation to do things different.


[Model credit: Roark Robinson, MRA Architects]

See the video: Video explaining the Water Hub

And link to the brochure:waterhub-brochure-version-4a

More detail on the website: The Water Hub, Franschhoek


Build a budget domestic greywater system

Cape Town is a water scarce area, yet homes (over 800 000) are serviced by very high quality water which is also used to irrigate gardens. Alternate water sources need to be exploited. Sending relatively clean water from a daily shower to a sewerage pipeline is a poor way of managing scarce water. I should have taken the initiative earlier, but always felt that the commercially systems were too expensive despite it being the ‘right thing to do’ in water management.

It’s easy to build these systems. The photograph below shows most of the items required. The most expensive is a submersible pump with a flotation switch (about R1500). The rest of bits and pieces costs about R500.


The final product below shows the 40mm feeding the bin (with its secure lid). The pump operates when 30 litres of greywater accumulate in container and has sufficient power to distribute water from the sprinkler over radius of 5 metres.


I’ve just planted new grass and am pleased with the growth of the lawn. It gets watered 3 times a day receiving about 30 litres each time. It’s that simple!


Greywater is an alternate water source. The use of this water should be encouraged in a controlled environment, where it can be monitored and managed. There are some risks, but there is no reason why it should not be encouraged under these conditions. Where is the incentive? Why isn’t greywater an option that becomes a city wide policy for sustainable water use?


Cool Shacks

Talk given to Christ Church, Kenilworth, 19 November 2015, Pecha Kucha style – 20 seconds a slide, 20 slides.

Cool Shacks_CCK November 2015

If informal settlements are here to stay in the short to medium term, perhaps longer, then how can shacks offer a safe, dignified and healthy environment? If we are serious about creating liveable cities then at least seven elements are necessary to build a healthy home.


UCT students are involved in training the bare foot builder to retrofit their homes frugally. It starts by recognising critical, one has to do with elevated temperatures and trapped heat in a shack dwelling. The table below shows how they are going about their work:

Making shack dwellings more liveable- THE PROCESS DOCUMENT


South Africa facing looming water crisis

19 August 2015 3:29 PM

As consumers continue to come to terms with an erratic electricity supply, they may be dealing with erratic delivery of another household staple – water – if engineering consulting firm Gibb’s latest report is to be believed.

Their report detailing South Africa’s water supply situation revealed water loss across municipalities to be a significant culprit in the growing water crisis. Water loss in includes losses within pipes, inaccurate meter readings and unauthorized consumption – water theft.

Speaking to 702’s Azania Mosaka, Dr Kevin Winter UCT’S Environmental & Geographical Science Department, says possible solutions to the crisis include new public-private partnerships, more awareness about water conservation as well as new methods of water cleaning.

Click below to hear the full conversation…



Peninsula Paddle 2015

Getting important messages across: ‘we are all connecting to the waterways’ and ‘the health of city is seen in its waterways’.

This year the paddle aims to raise sufficient funds to install 10 high resolution continuous monitoring instruments in various places along the Paddle route. We lack data to really understand much about how rivers and vleis are being affected daily.

More details: www.peninsulapaddle.wordpress.com



Contact details

University of Cape Town
Environmental & Geographical Science Department
Upper Campus

Tel: 0216502875

Email: kevin.winter@uct.ac.za

  1. You are a very exciting expert, thanks (edited for correctness)

  2. Hi Prof.

    I think this is a great site! Thoroughly enjoyed browsing through it. Well done for all the great work you’re involve with! I will be watching this space…

    Best regards,

  3. This is very relevant, especially seeing that South Africa is currently experiencing a drought

  4. Hi. I would like to follow your writing. Thx.

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