Authorities are moving ahead with plans to establish a water desalination plant in the Port of Cape Town

Cape Town port authorities are moving ahead with plans to establish a water desalination plant to ensure enough freshwater supply for passing vessels, Transnet National Port Authority announced on Monday.

Last year the Port and its resident Royal Cape Yacht Club were forced to endure a temporary ban on the supply of freshwater to passing yachts and ships when the city’s dams hit an all-time low due to a three-year drought.

Winter rainfall last year resulted in less severe water restrictions, but authorities are still moving ahead with desalination plans in case of recurring drought.

Transnet said desalination feasibility studies would be concluded by September and, if positive, a Sea Water Reverse Osmosis plant established before the end of next year.

TNPA’s Cape Town acting Port Manager, Captain Alex Miya, said the desalination plan was aimed at ensuring economic sustainability of port operations. “The port is confident that the municipality will ensure a water resilient region through a mix of water sources,” Miya said. “In the meantime, we have considered a few options to ensure economic sustainability. One of these options is a Sea Water Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) plant for port use. This is currently being explored in conjunction with various regulatory authorities and has received support from Transnet to proceed with further studies,” he said.

The proposed plant would provide between 1 million and 3 million litres a day, Transnet said in a statement. In addition, the TNPA was assisting the City of Cape Town with their feasibility studies for an additional bigger permanent desalination plant earmarked for development within the Port precinct, Transnet said. “Cape Town remains a water-scarce region and has just emerged from the worst drought since 1904. The good rainfall in 2018 and the substantial reduction in usage has allowed for municipal restrictions to be reduced from level 6 to level 3 in 2019. While this is positive, the region’s dependence on dam water could result in similar shortfalls in future,” Transnet said in a statement.

“TNPA at the Port of Cape Town previously implemented measures to manage water usage at the port after the City imposed widespread restrictions on using municipal drinking quality water for non-essential purposes. These water conservation steps included suspending the sale and supply of potable fresh water to vessels calling at the Port of Cape Town, with exceptions considered on merit. Ship repairers were also informed to make use of mobile water supply.”

Last year’s water restrictions prompted drastic water saving measures at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, including rainwater harvesting, water-efficient shower heads and a saltwater washer to clean boats. As a result, the club reduced water consumption by 40%.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront also implemented drastic water-saving measures, including grey water for cleaning luxury boats moored at their marina.