The Cape Town Water crisis: 3 November 2017

We invited two external experts:
  1. Mr Richard Wonnacott from Umvoto
  2. Dr Kirsty Carden from UCT’s FutureWater Institute
Richard gave an example of how he’d used the techniques of GNSS & InSAR to monitor the response of the Blossom Wellfield near Oudtshoorn to abstraction of natural water.
Kirsty gave a broad overview of issues regarding water in Cape Town, and the work of the multidisciplinary FutureWater Institute. Although her discussion included potential new water sources, her main focus was on the importance of changing our attitude to water, both inpersonal and policy spheres. Such changes can allow future planners in the city to make the best use of alternate water systems, not all of which need to be potable, e.g. desalinated effluent, stormwater, groundwater etc. 

The diagram on the whiteboard (right) shows the main topics of discussion, and how they grouped broadly into infrastructure and behaviour challenges. We discussed many possible sources

of water, and the infrastructure required to utilise them. We also touched on broader topics, like supporting the needs-driven innovation around water, and choosing responses to climate models in a way that maximises resilience to multiple possible outcomes.

While obvious areas of overlap between astronomy and the water crisis are not easy to find, the following ideas were suggested:
  1. A locally-produced planetarium show for the digital dome to raise awareness about water as a scarce resource. Can be linked to water in the solar system, etc.
  2. Contributions to statistics or models of climate data (would need interaction with CSAG)
  3. Efficient sharing of SA Earth Observation resources, i.e. similar to Astronomy’s Virtual Observatory (see also the SAEON Data Portal and the Research Data Alliance)
  4. Citizen science through contributions of citizen drone footage, or through citizen’s analysis of satellite images
  5. Radio Interferometry + InSAR techniques
  6. Manual or online course on getting started with different data formats e.g. satellite, GNSS (need to check existing resources first)

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