Could icebergs be the answer to Cape Town's water crisis?

Cape Town may have narrowly ...

Posted: May 2, 2018 4:43 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 4:43 PM

Cape Town may have narrowly avoided Day Zero -- the date at which the South African coastal metropolis of 4 million people would run completely out of water -- but the extreme water crisis it's facing is far from over.

Draconian water restrictions remain on the city's residents, limiting their water usage to 50 liters a day per person, and if significant winter rains do not replenish the region's reservoirs, Cape Town will once again be faced with prospect of taps running dry in early 2019.

The South African city still faces enormous water shortages

An iceberg could provide 30% of city's yearly water needs, advocate says

With desalination efforts proving to be time-consuming and costly, unconventional water supply options are under consideration.

One unique idea comes from noted salvage master Nicholas Sloane, who believes it's feasible to harness an iceberg that has broken off from Antarctica and tow it to the coast of Cape Town, where it would melt into usable water.

Sloane, a South African, is known for leading the monumental salvage operation of the capsized Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia in 2013.

"We spoke to local government late last year; they thought it was a crazy idea," Sloane told CNN on Tuesday.

But Sloane said that geography could be the key to the success of the project.

Antarctica shreds nearly 2,000 billion tons of ice per year, and many massive icebergs drift within about 1,200 miles of South Africa.

A single iceberg, weighing about 70,000 tons, would be enough to provide nearly 150 million liters of water per day for a year, according to Sloane.

He said it would meet nearly one-third of Cape Town's water needs, considerably more than desalination and other emergency plans the city is currently pursuing.

But the process wouldn't be an easy one.

The iceberg would likely be around a kilometer (0.6 mile) in length and would need to be wrapped in a fabric to limit the amount of melting that would take place on the three-month journey that a trip to Cape Town would require.

The idea is for a large tanker to guide the wrapped iceberg into the Benguela Current, which flows up from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, along the west coast of South Africa.

Even so, it is estimated that about 30% of the iceberg's mass would melt before it reaches its destination.

Because icebergs have such massive draft, it would likely run aground many miles off the coast, but Sloane and his team have a plan to moor it just offshore and harvest the meltwater from an opening inside the berg.

Fortunately, the ice is pure water, and would require minimal processing before being delivered to Cape Town residents.

It would be a significant advantage over other options under consideration such as capturing water from the heavily polluted Congo River and bringing it to Cape Town in supertankers.

In an interview with "CapeTalk" radio host John Maytham, Sloane said, "The cost (of transporting and treating water from the Congo) does not warrant that kind of action," adding that it may only be good for gray water even after treatment.

Harvesting water from icebergs is not a new idea -- it was first floated in academic circles in the 1970s.

A company in the United Arab Emirates was also planning on towing Antarctic icebergs more than 5,700 miles (9,200 kilometers) through the Indian Ocean to the UAE coast to help alleviate the water needs of the desert nation.

But the major engineering hurdles and large costs have so far prevented the idea from taking shape.

There are also some environmental concerns.

A review of the idea in a 2001 special report from the International Water Resources Association found that "melting iceberg material in near-shore coastal waters could cause a dramatic decline in local water temperatures with probable associated adverse effects on sensitive marine organisms."

But Sloane said he feels his team can succeed in the venture, and he plans to hold a meeting on May 17-18 to try to sell the $130 million project to Cape Town officials and investors.

Sloane said he is already 80% of the way to his funding goal and would like the effort to be completely privately funded, without any capital needed from local or the national government.

If he gets a green light at the meeting, Sloane said he hopes to begin work immediately.

"We believe we can do it," he said, adding that the project could be producing about 150 million liters a day by this time next year.

Terre Haute
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 41°
Robinson
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 39°
Indianapolis
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 43°
Rockville
Overcast
40° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 40°
Casey
Overcast
41° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 33°
Brazil
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Marshall
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 42°
Cloudy with Afternoon Rain
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Monday: Cloudy, afternoon showers. High: 52

Image

Sunday Evening Forecast

Image

New named tropical storm

Image

Unreal Nightmare Escapes

Image

Church offers trunk-or-treat

Image

Jeep Junkies Trunk-or-Treat

Image

Riders compete at Griffin Bike Park

Image

College Goal Sunday

Image

Remembering Leeam Pritcher

Image

Bike competition this weekend

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 378958

Reported Deaths: 9775
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1755865421
DuPage22783606
Lake20630510
Will18356427
Kane16621347
Winnebago10183180
St. Clair7920220
Madison7151154
McHenry6310121
Champaign609129
Unassigned4767270
Peoria454470
McLean415034
Rock Island400590
Sangamon398863
Kankakee338880
Macon305552
Kendall267030
Tazewell264556
LaSalle240863
DeKalb235842
Coles191239
Williamson188359
Adams186219
Boone186025
Clinton175526
Vermilion171810
Jackson154226
Whiteside140027
Knox129916
Randolph127115
Ogle11897
Effingham11654
Marion101219
Franklin9829
Stephenson9817
Grundy9657
Monroe92030
Bureau90616
Jefferson90548
Morgan89624
Henry8467
Christian81629
Macoupin80711
Union78025
McDonough76420
Lee7102
Fayette68024
Douglas6729
Shelby66912
Crawford6476
Livingston63210
Woodford61814
Montgomery61016
Logan5904
Saline5599
Fulton5181
Bond4999
Jo Daviess4987
Warren4968
Iroquois49219
Wayne48212
Jersey47321
Cass46211
Perry43816
Moultrie4114
Carroll41011
Johnson3550
Pike3536
Richland33416
Lawrence3338
Clay31113
Hancock3094
Clark30817
Washington3072
Mason3051
Greene29015
Cumberland2886
White2694
Jasper26410
Mercer2626
De Witt2606
Piatt2500
Pulaski2351
Wabash2265
Ford19614
Menard1851
Marshall1563
Edgar15510
Massac1542
Henderson1280
Alexander1201
Hamilton1202
Edwards1080
Brown1070
Gallatin1072
Scott1060
Putnam920
Schuyler901
Stark863
Calhoun660
Hardin530
Pope421
Out of IL170

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 162607

Reported Deaths: 4130
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25871792
Lake14222358
St. Joseph9532166
Elkhart9156137
Allen8552230
Hamilton6335114
Vanderburgh609062
Tippecanoe391815
Porter341650
Hendricks3367134
Monroe333238
Johnson3239130
Delaware307675
Clark303163
Vigo272440
Madison248096
LaPorte236161
Cass228523
Warrick201565
Kosciusko198427
Floyd185868
Howard168466
Bartholomew146958
Dubois145526
Marshall145126
Wayne137931
Henry131330
Grant131039
Boone128050
Hancock123144
Noble121935
Jackson118517
Dearborn101728
Morgan98940
Lawrence94737
Gibson92812
Daviess91334
Clinton90316
Shelby89431
LaGrange82815
Knox81310
Harrison79924
Posey7667
Putnam76616
DeKalb75811
Fayette73918
Jasper6655
Miami6615
Steuben6578
Montgomery62022
White61016
Greene57338
Scott54513
Decatur52539
Adams5237
Whitley4796
Ripley4748
Clay4587
Sullivan45514
Wells44911
Wabash4389
Starke4378
Huntington4365
Orange42125
Spencer4126
Washington3863
Franklin38125
Randolph38110
Jennings37913
Fulton3764
Perry36114
Jefferson3525
Pike34318
Carroll33813
Jay3316
Fountain3193
Tipton28223
Vermillion2681
Parke2504
Newton23611
Blackford2344
Rush2304
Owen2111
Martin2040
Pulaski1753
Crawford1631
Brown1463
Ohio1337
Union1140
Benton1100
Switzerland970
Warren891
Unassigned0236