Drought and Desalination

Seems as if the drought we suffered last summer was just the beginning. My November garden looks like the usual February garden, only the indigenous plants and bougainvilleas are holding up.

The worst drought in the Southern Cape in 132 years has seen local dams drop to below 30% capacity and we are on stringent water restrictions. With our tourist season hitting it’s peaks over December the pressure for water is going to increase. It doesn’t help that everything still looks lush and vegetated, visitors to the area don’t grasp how serious the situation is – as Cape Nature Conservation put it, we are in a chronic ‘green drought’, it all looks okay but it isn’t.

The building of the biggest seawater desalination plant in South Africa on the Sedgefield beachfront will go some way to getting us through the holiday season. Contractors are busy on the 12m by 12m plant which  consists of two desalination units capable of producing 1500kl of water per day. The average water consumption for Sedgefield during last month was 1150kl/day.

The desalination plant will be fixed into three shipping containers placed in a ‘u’ shape at the back on the Myoli beach car park, with six large plastic water tanks in the middle. Salt water will be drawn from eight or nine “beach wells” – boreholes under the sand – four of which would always be on standby.

The by-product of desalination – concentrated seawater called brine – will be injected into discharge wells on the beach about 400m away from the intake water. No works will be visible on the beach as everything will be buried deep below the sand.

The Control Officer for the project told the local paper that the area is a closed off construction site, saying residents should “fight any desire to pop down and see what’s going on”.

If I lose that fight, which I probably will soon, I’ll post a pic of the work in progress.

7 Responses to “Drought and Desalination”

  1. 1 ian in hamburg November 24, 2009 at 4:28 am

    I’m curious what you find, especially what they’re using to power the plant, and how it works.
    Such a beautiful area – I hope the drought doesn’t last long!

  2. 2 shoreacres November 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Just had a read through gardenroute.com and a few other forums – interesting project history, and of course the same sorts of arguments you find anywhere.

    I was amazed by the figures I found pretty commonly accepted – that 15-20% of your water is above ground, with the bulk of the reserves below. Here, we have aquifers throughout Texas, but they’re easily depleted during droughts – and if wells are overused they can collapse.

    After our summer’s drought I feel for you. It was so bad here that even when the rains finally came they were of no help to the farmers who’d lost their crops.

    I should mention, too, that my Cape Honeysuckle has decided 45 at night and 70 in the day is perfect for new growth and blooms – the plants had started putting on their seeds, but now they’re growing again. Believe it or not, Cape Honeysuckle is second most popular search term for bringing people to my site. Write about Cape Honeysuckle once a month or put it into your posts about your B&B and you may increase your readership!

    • 3 Jeannine November 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

      I do worry about the constant use of boreholes here, people water lawns throughout the drought. There must come a time when you deplete even large reserves and the walls collapse.
      With the sea so close I wonder if a wall collapse would turn the fresh water saline? A breach would mean no going back. I have asked a geologist friend about it, and he says most of the water used just goes back into the ground, an endless cycle. Not sure if that is accurate, but I sure hope it is.
      Those Cape Honeysuckles are amazing – both beautiful and hardy. No matter how adverse the conditions get here, they just keep growing and blooming. In fact, the recent years of drought have seen them flower more spectacularly than ever.

  3. 4 Mike February 22, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Your comments on ground water and desalination are among a number I’ve seen and I’m hoping to get a Q&A session set up in Sedgefield in the not too distant future. Ithink we owe it to the community to try to answer their questions.

    On a totally different topic, I really loved your tiled steps. I have a picture of some steps in San Francisco that you might enjoy.

    • 5 Jeannine February 23, 2010 at 5:37 am

      It would be great to get some clarity on the topic – I hope you succeed. It just seems logical that abuse could lead to problems, as Linda points out, the Texas wells have collapsed from over use.

      Thanks for the compliment regarding the stairs. I love them too and enjoy them every day. I would love to see the pic of the San Fran stairs. Do you have a pic you could email? I will send you my addy.

  4. 6 Ryno Nel May 20, 2010 at 7:49 am


    I am doing my masters on using nuclear energy powering a combination of plants like desalination and hydrogen production. Can someone tell me what type of power such a plant will consume? What is the temperatures needed for operation?

  5. 7 Mike May 20, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Hi Ryno – would like to talk to you, because the answers are not simple. Will find a way of making contact with you.

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