South Africa: Cape Town Dams, Part 2 - Memory Lane At a Glance


It's not the first time Cape Town and the surrounds have had a water supply problem. Over the last two centuries, it has lurched through a few crises. Here's how we survived to meet this one. By JASON NORWOOD-YOUNG and MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.

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Cape Town's history is intrinsically linked to its water supply, and water shortages are nothing new. Water restrictions have been part of the furniture for generations, including in the early 1900s, after key reservoirs were built and during a 1916 water augmentation scheme. The year 1928 saw demand exceeding supply despite interventions.

The city has bounced from one water crisis to another over the last two centuries, with water shortages in the early 1800s forcing the British to appoint the City's first waterworks engineer. By 1875, the first hydraulic engineer was appointed to deal with water shortages at that time, and by the close of the century, Cape Town's water problems were temporarily quenched by the Woodhead reservoir at the top of Table Mountain. But not for long. The population is growing and the water supply is shrinking - that is one thing that has not changed. Ready for a trip down memory...

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