Channel 4 reporter Lindsey Hilsum could not contain her excitement as she reported on the drought hitting Cape Town. There were a number of factors to blame but Climate Change was repeated many times. Her conclusion was clear, Governments across the world must not wait for climate change to hit them as it had hit the Cape as that would be too late, they must act now. Hmm. Fake news alert! We know Channel 4 prefers pious virtue signalling to hard data analysis but this was extreme.
As it happens Lindsey's report was filmed earlier in the week and was not live. That was a pity as on Friday it rained in Cape Town and more rain is forecast today. But that is an aside.
First up we might look at how dry the Cape is in historical terms. Luckily we have data from three weather stations in the Cape (Vrugbaar, Rustfontein and Nuweberg) c/o the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the Department of Water & Sanitation (DWS). Drought conditions cannot be created in just one year so - accepting that 2017 was very dry( the driest since 1933) - it is better to look at four year trailing trends and if we do that we see that the current dry spell is a bit wetter than that ending 2005, is the same as that ending in 1975 and only marginally drier than that ending in 1935, before all those cars and coal fired power stations caused all this global warming.
So why is the Cape only running out of water now? The next set of data ignored by Lindsey is population. Now there is a caveat here in that not all folks use the same amount of water. The blacks in the shanty towns do not have baths and showers so use far less than other folks and the growth in the population of Cape Town is in part, but only in part, down to shanty towns. So what was the population at the height of previous dry spells? I cannot find a 1935 number but in 1946 it was 383,000 having trebled since the turn of the century. By 1973 it was 1.2 million rising ro 2.9 million by 2005 and today it is 3.8 million. In other words demand for water has rocketed.
There is a third factor Lindsey ignored completely - leakage. The infrastructure of water supply in South Africa was put in place by the evil Britishers as part of our Colonial oppression. As all kids are taught today, the Empire was a force for evil and one of the way that we oppressed the poor folks of South Africa was by building a world class water supply system, Christ we were bastards. I feel so fecking guilty. And to show what real bastards we were we built a similar system at the same time back home in Blighty.
Politicians being politicians they the used water rates as another source of revenue and failed for decades to reinvest the proceeds in maintaining the water supply system. Thus by the 1980s leakage rates in both countries were alarming and rising. In the UK the wicked and evil Tories privatised the industry, part of which involved forcing the companies to spend set amounts on repairs and maintenance each year, amounts linked to profits. Guess what? Leakage rates in the UK have fallen by a third to just above 20% and are still falling! That bitch Thatcher and her privatisations she has a lot to answer for.
In South Africa they have been spared the evil Tories and their dastardly schemes and thus water supply is still in the benevolent hands of the state. Thus capital spend has been insufficient to stop leakage rates rising and they are now 35% and still heading North. So more than 1 in three gallons taken from the reservoirs of the Cape never makes it to a tap.
But Lindsey Hilsum and her colleagues at Channel 4 Fake News do not care about real data. This drought is largely down to climate change and Governments need to prepare for that or they will suffer as the Cape is suffering now. It is that simple in the post fact fake news world of Channel 4.