Cape Town’s water shortage highlights population ponzi insanity

By Leith van Onselen

Over the past month, the world’s media has reported that Cape Town in South Africa is about to become the first major city to run out of water. The Conversation summarises the situation unfolding:

The world is watching the unfolding Cape Town water crisis with horror. On “Day Zero”, now predicted to be just ten weeks away, engineers will turn off the water supply. The South African city’s four million residents will have to queue at one of 200 water collection points.

Cape Town is the first major city to face such an extreme water crisis. There are so many unanswered questions. How will the sick or elderly people cope? How will people without a car collect their 25-litre daily ration? Pity those collecting water for a big family.

The crisis is caused by a combination of factors. First of all, Cape Town has a very dry climate with annual rainfall of 515mm. Since 2015, it has been in a drought estimated to be a one-in-300-year event.

In recent years, the city’s population has grown rapidly – by 79% since 1995. Many have questioned what Cape Town has done to expand the city’s water supply to cater for the population growth and the lower rainfall…

Dry climate. Rampant population growth. Where else has those ingredients? A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A.

The dilemma unfolding has led to some commentators questioning whether Australian cities could suffer the same fate. For example, here’s the same Conversation article:

Australia’s largest cities have often struggled with drought. Water supplies may decline further due to climate change and uncertain future rainfall. With all capital cities expecting further population growth, this could cause water supply crises

And here’s Domain:

A report released last year stated that Melbourne faces similar population growth and climate change challenges. The demand for water in Melbourne could exceed available resources by 2028.

… in Cape Town, as in Melbourne, the majority of water users are residential.

Neither article, however, even bothered to question the primary driver of the pending water shortages: Australia’s mass immigration ‘Big Australia’ policy.

The warnings about Australia’s water supplies have been apparent for decades but have been completely ignored by Australian policy makers.

In 1994, when Australia’s population was just under 18 million, the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) convened a symposium on the future population of Australia. Its analysis was extended to Australia’s resources of water, minerals and arable land, and the interactions between present lifestyle and present environmental damage, and between future expectations and the costs of increasing population.

The AAS cautioned that “if our population reaches the high end of the feasible range (37 million), the quality of life of all Australians will be lowered by the degradation of water, soil, energy and biological resources” and concluded that “the quality of all aspects of our children’s lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million”.

Just 24 years later, Australia’s population is approaching 25 million, thus already exceeding the AAS’ recommended maximum population mid-century. And official government forecasts have Australia’s population hitting 40 million mid-century, with Sydney and Melbourne reaching 8 million people each.

To add insult to injury, Flinders University in 2010 released a report to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) examining the “Long-Term Physical Implications of Net Overseas Migration” (NOM). This report concluded that “higher levels of NOM impose greater adverse impacts on the quality of our natural and built environments” and that the “geographical concentration… within Sydney, Melbourne and Perth… substantially increases their environmental impact”. The report found that “decreased urban water supply is a significant environmental constraint exacerbated by higher levels of NOM”. In particular, “modelling shows the vulnerability of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to deficits in water supply“.

The Flinders University report also noted that Australia’s water resources could only cope with NOM of up to 50,000 people a year (versus more than 200,000 currently):

Only NOM levels of 50,000 pa or less result in Melbourne and Sydney maintaining a small surplus of net surface supply over demand on average out to 2050, assuming current climate conditions persist. Potential options to alleviate water stress at high NOM levels over the longer term may be hard to find.

Of course, Australia can resort to technical solutions to augment its water supplies, such as building more desalination plants. However, these ‘solutions’ are necessarily expensive and environmentally destructive, with costs borne by the incumbent population, as noted by The Conversation:

The desalination plants were expensive to build, consume vast quantities of electricity and are very expensive to run. They remain costly to maintain, even if they do not supply desalinated water. All residents pay higher water rates as a result of their existence.

Indeed, in December, Infrastructure Australia reported that household water bills will double in line with energy bills because of population growth and climate change – hitting more than $2500 a year by 2040:

Modelling in the report forecasts that a typical residential water and sewerage bill “could rise by around $600 in today’s money over the next 10 years”. This would result in average bills increasing from $1226 to $1827 in 2027. By 2040, the modelling shows the average would reach as high as $2553. This would represent more than a doubling in real terms.

“For many families, growth in bills of this scale could cause significant hardship”…

The report says that a failure to factor in urban population growth, ageing infrastructure and climate change impacts on supply would expose consumers to price shock risks. It says the millennium drought “exposed a number of vulnerabilities of the sector, and led to over $11 billion of investment (in today’s dollars) to augment supply through desalination plants”.

Blind Freddy (but not our politicians or mainstream media) can see that the best and most cost effective way to relieve pressure on our cities’ water supplies and urban infrastructure is for the various state governments to lobby the federal government to slash Australia’s immigration program back to historical levels:

Because under the current mass immigration settings, expensive and environmentally destructive solutions like building more desalination plants will be required over and over again as rapid population growth continually outstrips supply.

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  1. Two words “recycle water” thats what we do over here in the States and dont have near the problems Australia or South Africa.

      • What on earth? If America has the money for water recycling, then Australia does as well. To even consider lumping us in with South Africa…..just ridiculous. I suggest you stop crap posting on here and go outside for a while.

      • Yup, incompetence, corruption and mismanagement at its finest.

        South African infrastructure has (by all accounts) been in steady decline since the ANC took power all those years ago. The country will look like any other banana republic in Africa soon enough. Word has it that a 2nd ‘exodus’ has begun – just a trickle for now but anecdotal evidence is mounting. All those ludicrously over-priced properties in ritzy suburbs in Cape Town will be over-run with squatters in the years to come, just you watch.

        Good new for Perth, of course, who will have a ready supply of buyers as the exodus gathers strength (assuming the immigrant wave has any money, of course).

    • LBS – I think I read somewhere that water coming down the Darling River gets recycled something like 7 times. That’s what made the kerfuffle about recycling water in Toowoomba a bit daft, lots of Australians have no issue with drinking recycled water

      • The Toowoomba thing was purely political – it had the go-ahead with backing by the QLD gov until Berghofer drummed up a media campaign that got it binned. Yeah, that Berghofer…

      • Also worth noting: from memory, the plant would have produced water so pure it could be used in kidney dialysis. That was to be pumped back into the filthy (in comparison) water system that no one had a problem drinking. Subsidized by the QLD government. Toowoomba instead footed the enormous bill for a pipeline to Wivenhoe dam and can’t even afford the electricity bill on the pumps

    • The longest drought in a century and no desalination plants. Whilst can’t deter nature, you can prepare.

      • Toowoomba can’t even afford it’s electricity bill on the Wivenhoe dam pipeline which was put in instead of the recycling plant.

    • An interesting hypothesis .
      Behind both massive irrigation and Climate Change is exponential population growth.
      If we do not deal with our numbers nature will .

  2. South Africa seems to have too much immigration from Nigeria:

    I saw a Louis Theroux episode called Law and Disorder in Johannesburg. In it, a South African said that Nigerians come in to work for $5 a day!

    Within the last two years, about 116 Nigerians have lost their lives in South Africa through extra-judicial means.

    xenophobic attack launched on Nigerians in South Africa

    South Africans have never really wanted Nigerians

    • Failed Baby BoomerMEMBER

      Not only nigeria – somali, congo and rwanda too. What these nothern africans hope to find in south africa is beyond me. They don’t share any of the culture, language or have anything else in common – yet they come! They would be better off going to europe.

      • Johannesburg has the best climate on the planet. Great fruits, great vegetation, great landscape. Great economy compared to its neighbours.

        And it is not like South Africans can “stop the boats” from the neighbouring countries.

      • They don’t share any of the culture, language, religion or ethnicity of Europe.
        Africans in Europe would be incongruous, so let the Africans deal with their African troubles.
        African immigration to the west just leads to social unrest.

    • Nearly everyone with any skill from Zimbabwe have moved to South Africa thanks to Mugabe wrecking the economy.

  3. What’s this fearmongering?! As long as there is plenty of water in the harbour on which to park the yacht, there is no relevant water shortage (for those who matter). And there is plenty of water in the harbour.

    The plebs will get by as they always do. Darkies are especially hardy, I hear.

  4. 10 years ago, Brisbane and Melbourne nearly ran out of water. Then we add one million people to Melbourne and 500,000 people to Brisbane. Yes, both cities built desalination plants, but these will probably be too little now with the rapid growth in populations. The people in charge of this madness will be the first to point fingers about inadequate infrastructure when the taps are turned off rather than admitting we added too many people to the driest inhabited continent.

    • In Brisbane the managers of the Dams were taken to court for causing or adding to the flood damage for releasing water during the flood because their dams were to full.
      Now they keep their dams only half full to stop a repeat of that situation.
      But it will not play well when the next drought happens.

  5. It’s another example of what happens when you had a sustainable middle class country that South Africa is/was and then allow too much immigration into Johannesburg, dilute resources & wealth, dilute services e.g. water, coupled with typical African leadership and hey presto you have a crisis, another Zimbabwe in the making. And the other day I see Zimbabwe asking for white farmers to return to build the countries back up after the indigenous Zimbabwean’s bought the countries to its knees. WTF?…why would anyone want to return, let them reap what they sow.

    • There are many in Australia and elsewhere who would return to Zimbabwe especially when Australia slips to becoming a third world country.

  6. reusachtigeMEMBER

    LOLOLOL! Awesome anti-vibrancy propaganda but it’s rubbish!! South Africa is a backward country that has been going downhill since the late 80s. Australia is a booming nation with excellent focus on water future as we can build many desalination plants because we have an unlimited supply of sea water near our major cities and thousands of years of coal that we can use to power the plants. It aint a problem folks!

    • We can also import water from China for people who rent and save the good local stuff for good looking home-owners so they can properly hydrate during relations parties (as well as allowing good looking Chinamen property owners to buy the local stuff and daigou it back to Beijing)

    • which is all very well bar one – desal requires electricity, which is too expensive in Australia. It would be cheaper to pipe water from the Ord.

      • reusachtigeMEMBER

        Rubbish! Build new conjoined coal fired power stations and desal plants adjacent to coastal coal seams and all those problems are solved!! Even in Vic you could start making use of the abundant brown coal around the great lakes.

      • Piping water from the Ord requires pumping with electric motors.
        The cost of this is far more than the cost of desalination plants.

    • Given the time it takes to build a desal plant, would you rather that they built it and didn’t turn it on, or that they didn’t build it as above, and the taps got turned off? We were getting very close to the same happening in Sydney, the rains only came as the plant was being built.

  7. Water mining is becoming as big a problem in the Northern Rivers as CSG mining was a few years ago.
    Some private land holders are waterming to such an extent it is affecting their neighbours bores and threatening their farms viability.
    Water Wars indeed.