#CapeWaterCrisis: Towing Icebergs from Antarctica is a solution, but it's 'too late for this year'

2018-02-01 14:30 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Polar iceberg

Polar regions have had extremely warm periods, researchers have found. (AP)

Cape Town -  Level 6B water restrictions are officially in place as of Thursday, 01 February 2018, across the Western Cape.

From 01 February, all households have to reduce their municipal water consumption to 50 litres per person per day. 

MUST-SEE:  WATCH: Desperation flows as 50-litre water restrictions kick in in Cape Town

As Day Zero approaches, there have been more signs of panic and anger from the city’s residents - understandably so - but wouldn't it be great if the anger was directed towards resolving the crisis instead of circulating myths that need to be debunked?

As an example, instead of blaming the drought on SA Weather Service's 'incorrect' prediction, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille could have highlighted facts about how residents and hotels in the Mother City are reducing year-on-year water consumption. 

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: Myths and facts you need to know

While many residents and organisations have published useful guidelines to prepare for Day Zero, the salvage master, Captain Nicholas Sloane of Sloane Marine Limited, believes bringing icebergs to Cape Town from Antarctica is a viable plan.

Sloane is best known for his salvage operation of the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Italian coast in 2013. In an interview with CapeTalk, he says the location between Cape Town and Antarctica is almost 3000 nautical miles away, but loose floating icebergs are only about 1 000 nautical miles away from the Cape.

He explains that 3.5% of icebergs would be perfect to be towed to Cape Town, however, it is already "too late for this year" as the towing would be a slow process with the towing vessel not doing more than 1 knot.

"I think to tow the iceberg here would be half the cost of desalination," says Sloane, adding that ice is pure water and therefore potable.

Sloane says the ideal iceberg to tow to the Cape would be around 100 million tons, about a kilometre in length, and half a kilometre in width. 

With that being said, Sloane says about 80 000 cubic metres of water that would melt per day on the surface alone, so the target would be to deliver 200 000 cubic metres of water a day to the city - 200 million litres a day - and tone iceberg would last a year.

ALSO SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: How to secure safe drinking water after Day Zero

Another suggestion is that 100 million litre supertankers can bring water from the Congo River.

Sloane says the first 10km of the river is fresh, because of the particular hydrology in the areas.

"We are running out of time so you would need five or six supertankers. And it is a 12-14 day rotation, but the real challenge comes with the quality of the water," says Sloane.

However, according to Sloane, the Congo water may be fresh, but it is not potable and would have to be treated, which may only be good for greywater use even after treatment - raising the cost of the already expensive process.

The cost is an estimated $350 000 (about R4m at 11.88/$) per tanker load of about 200 000 cubic metres of water.

So since its already 'too late' to tow icebergs and, seemingly, too expensive to get supertankers, what are your suggestions? - Tweet, Facebook or email us and let us know.

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