The Editor

The Cape Times 

Dear Sir 

Day zero when taps run dry looms, if not this year, then next. With a four-fold increse in population over the past twenty years, and continuing growth and lower rainfall expected, we are staring a calamity in the face.

Cape Town’s dams began visualy receding over the past three summers. This problem was exacerbated by inefficient irrigation and lack of a long-term plan, including desalination. In 2016 officials at Israel’s embassy, with decades of experience in water security in a desert environment, alerted national, provincial and local governments in South Africa. Israel has trained water technicians in more than 100 countries, and it offered to bring in experts to help South Africa. 

South African officials for what appeared to be ideological reasons ignored or rebuffed the no-strings Israeli proposal. They wanted no help from Jerusalem.

The government, or at least its dominant party, persists in its negative political stance where it seems to be ready to sacrifice the well being of its citizens rather than to ask for help from Israel.

Instead we looked for help from Iran which is not known for its water expertise. Water shortages in that country gave rise to the recent Iranian protests and largely untreated sewage was discharged into nearby waterways. An Iranian agriculture minister predicted that as many as 50 million Iranians—around two-thirds of the population—would need to be uprooted because of growing potable water scarcity.

Israel brought a team of water professionals to Cape Town. Neither the mayor, also strongly hostile to Israel, nor any senior municipal official would see them.

Why Cape Town insists on taking this dangerous route is a mystery. The Palestinian Authority has worked with Israel on a range of water projects since 1995. Israel offers training for Palestinians in wastewater management, infrastructure and security. Israel also provides the Palestinian Authority with more than half its water for domestic consumption in the West Bank. And it pipes more than 11.4 billion litres of water into Hamas-controlled Gaza each year.

In the decades of its existence, the country has developed an apolitical, technocratic form of water governance. Israelis pioneered desalination, drip irrigation and the specialised reuse of treated wastewater in agriculture. Although Israel is in the fifth year of a drought, today its citizens can count on abundant water. Not Cape Town.

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