Publisher's Note March 2018
Max & Joanne Friedland at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art in Cape Town, South Africa.
Over New Year, my wife and I were in Cape Town, South Africa with the kids, visiting friends and family and showing off our old stomping ground. Being there in the splendor of the Western Cape, watching my mother hoard bottled water made me wonder how the mother city became the new poster child of an international disaster.
Cape Town was always a place of abundance, a way station where sailing ships on their long sea voyages from Europe could stop for supplies. Known as the Fairest Cape, it was a sailor’s favorite port, not only for the fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat available but also sweet water that ran in its rivers. And now it’s running out.
After school, my surfer buddies and I would grab our boards and head for the beach. There always were frigid waves to ride before dinner. Surrounded by so much water, how can it now be rationed and restricted?
The Theewaterskloof Dam is one of the largest reservoirs in the region and, as you can see from our shocking cover image this month, it is down to just single-digit percentage points of capacity. This major component of the Cape’s water resources shares a boundary with the southern end of a farm we used to own. Like the farm, it draws its name from the Theewaterskloof River, and its tea-colored water that flows through the orchards down to the dam.
For the last three years, a high-pressure weather system has parked itself over the southern Atlantic blocking seasonal rains. It has caused reservoirs to empty and rivers to run dry. According to people I talked with when I was there, the little water that makes it to the ground from mountain streams, runs into the ocean.
In fact, there’s been no work on the infrastructure at all. When South Africa was under apartheid, as shameful as it was, there was plenty of water for the privileged. In the black communities, multiple households would rely on a single spigot or supply. With the end of Apartheid the country was not only ill-prepared for the increase in water demand, but continued to do nothing to acknowledge it moving forward for a variety of reasons, including blatant corruption.
There is, however, some good news. Day Zero, the day when the plumbing runs dry, has been adjusted backward a few times due to an overwhelming response from Capetonians. My mother has become quite the water conservation wizard. To her, it is all about “grey water,” the bucket in the shower. She uses it for a multitude of chores; it waters her plants and cleans her kitchen floor. She even has little containers in her hand basins and the kitchen sink to collect excess wastewater. It’s now possible to hear her humming her new favorite melody “If it’s yellow let it mellow if it’s brown, flush it down.” Mom, the later-day environmentalist, has found a way to get a kick out of it all.
If this 87-year-old can learn new tricks, then there is hope for us all. As always enjoy our magazine. I’ll see you in the racks.
Max D. Friedland