100 days until the petrol station

Cape Town is not expected to run out of water before the winter rains start.

Cape Town has 100 days of water left, so what does this mean?

Imagine this scenario:

Cape Town is our car, the fuel tank are our dams, and ourfuel-gauge fuel consumption is our water consumption. The petrol station are the winter rains that fill the tank.

So we’ve been driving our car for a while now and it’s been ages since we’ve seen a petrol station and our petrol gauge has gone from ¾ to ½ to 1/4. Now the Petrol Light is on and we only have 100kms (or days) left until we run out of petrol.

So no need to panic yet because we know that petrol station has always been open, every single time we’ve driven to it. Sometimes we are able to fill the tank to 100% if we are really lucky but most of the time we are able to fill the tank just enough to get us to the next petrol station.

So what do we do when the petrol light is on and we know we have just enough fuel to get to the petrol station? We drive fuel efficient! We switch off the aircon, close the windows, go easy on the acceleration, freewheel down hills…we also stick to the speedlimit and don’t speed. Now, we’ve been speeding for years and driving like a maniac – why? Because it’s fun and we’ve never really bothered about saving fuel before. We’ve gotten a couple of speeding fines before from government, and we’ve always just paid them because we have the money, and it’s easier to pay the fine than it is to change our habits.

Now the fines for speeding have become really expensive so there are penalties to driving fast and furious. So let’s be fuel efficient and stick to the speedlimit ok? Because we have to otherwise we are going to run out of fuel before we reach the petrol station.

But what happens if the petrol station is not where it always has been? What happens if it has moves down the road by a few blocks.  (This is when we hit 20% dam level and the winter rains are late) or if we drive like maniacs and run out of fuel before the petrol stations.

Well just like a car, we have a reserve tank of 20%. BUT we don’t want to go into this reserve tank except for an emergency because like a car there are issues. Car manufactures always tell us not to run the fuel tank to empty. These tanks are full of sediment and when we reach that bottom 10% and start pumping out the sediment, well then we get sediment stuck in the fuel pump. Best case scenario we have to replace the fuel pump; worst case the engine seizes. Now this sediment isn’t normally a problem but only becomes an issue when the tank is empty. Remember, the solution to pollution is dilution. So like the dams, the sediments and nutrients become a serious problem at this stage.

To take the analogy further..

We’ve been driving our fuel guzzler vehicle for years because it’s what we’ve always driven and what we are comfortable with. The fuel price keeps on going up and up and it’s become more and more expensive to maintain and fill the car, but we still keep on driving it because it’s what we have always done.

We’ve driven past all the signs offering trade-in deals on our model, as well as great deals for hybrids and small models, but we like our car because it goes so fast when overtaking, and that’s fun. We’ve also been told the benefits of going green but still we stick to our car. We also know that we are in this exact same predicament every time our petrol tank light comes on, but still we stick to the same car we have always driven.

Maybe it’s time for an upgrade or a trade-in?

We know we need a large fuel tank because we have to have a lot of fuel storage because we stay so far from work. (Cape Town receives its rain in winter and has to store it until summer when it is needed). But there are other options. We can have a fuel efficient car for work, a bicycle for quick trips to the Spar down the road, we can also walk because that is healthy for us….we can car pool too or take public transport…

Get the picture? By relying too heavily on our dams we will always have this fuel light issue. And because of climate change, the experts tell us that fuel is going to become really expensive and harder to find. In order to become water secure, we need a portfolio of transport options.

The car (our dams) will probably always be needed to get to work but we don’t have to drive it all the time.

UPDATE 02/02/2017

Cape Town has now implemented Level 3B water restrictions, so in our car we still had the aircon on full, we were overtaking, revving at the robots and in general heavy with that accelerator pedal. That petrol light has started flashing or the dashboard no longer tells you how many kms you have left, and we still don’t know if we will get to the petrol station before they close. So now is the time to really drive fuel efficient otherwise we might run out of petrol.

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