From Water Shortage to Electricity Outages

It’s been an interesting few weeks, as we’ve (thankfully and luckily) moved away from the water shortage and are now facing another crisis. In terms of water, the dams are now at about 70% capacity. The powers that be feel confident enough to relax water restrictions from a level 5 (a 6 when we moved here- very near utter crisis, although not quite at the “day zero” level forecast originally to be May 2018) to level 3. Knowing that we are entering a dry season which will last until next winter (May/June here), I keep asking people if that’s wise to relax that much. People shrug their shoulders. Despite the level, we are continuing to use the conservation methods we’ve learned – reduced shower times, toilet flushes, etc.  It feels good to be mindful of the environment and do what we can to help.  We are also among the fortunate in that we have “borewater” in our backyard – which is separate system from the town.

So now that we have adjusted to reduced water consumption, we are facing another utility crisis: electricity “load shedding.” Apparently as a result of gross financial mismanagement at ESKOM, the state electricity utility, during the prior Zuma Administration, there is not sufficient capacity in the system to power all the city’s critical infrastructure – dams, lights, transport systems – when needed. “Load shedding” is a process of systemic and shared power black outs to conserve enough capacity to allocate it where most needed. It effects the entire Cape peninsula. Ostensibly there’s a published schedule announcing that a particular neighborhood will have a black out for two hours 4-5 times a week. Not completely sure how accurate it is; according to our schedule (which honestly I’m not paying enough attention to) we should have had several outages. We’ve only had one to my knowledge.

Even with the planned schedules, load shedding is causing chaos. Complete neighbors are pitch black; alarms go haywire, clocks blink off and on and phone systems seem impacted too.  I can’t even imagine how this impacts people in the townships.

As people say, this is Africa, after all!

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