Earlier this year, it was reported that Cape Town, a large metropolis of 4 million people in South Africa, barely avoided “Day Zero” – which was the day in which the sprawling city would run out of usable water – thanks to severe drought.
But now, the water crisis continues. Experts estimate that by early next year, Cape Town could completely run out of water, leaving its 4 million residents high and dry.
The latest idea to help Cape Town? Lassoing an iceberg and using it to provide usable water for the beleaguered city.
How an Iceberg Could Save the Day
NIcholas Sloane, a salvage expert, thinks it’s possible to grab an iceberg that broke away from Antarctica and tow it to Cape Town to be used as water.
On the surface, this idea sounds reasonable: after all, icebergs are made up of tons of frozen fresh water ready for drinking.
How much water? If they find an iceberg that weighs 70,000 tons, which is around average for the icebergs that break away from the southernmost continent, they could potentially provide up to 150 million liters of water every single day for an entire year – which would meet a third of the city’s water requirements.
But there are difficulties.
The Problems with Capturing an Iceberg
Locating an iceberg won’t be the problem, given how many there are in the ocean. But icebergs melt the farther north they get, as they pass into warmer waters. So, Sloane speculates, the entire iceberg would have to be covered in a special insulating fabric to keep it cool enough to survive the journey.
One big problem with that: icebergs are huge. A 70,000 ton iceberg would be roughly a kilometer long, which is 0.6 miles. That’s the length of almost nine football fields placed end to end. Creating fabric of that size is a serious and expensive undertaking.
Then you have the problem of actually getting the iceberg to Cape Town. Cape Town is on the coast, so that’s not the issue; the issue is with towing something so massive and bulky.
It would also take roughly three months of travel to get the iceberg to Cape Town, and during that time, even with insulating fabric, the iceberg could lose up to a third of its mass.
Exploring All the Solutions
The iceberg solution is tricky, but it is, on paper, at least as effective as what’s being proposed now. Desalination does produce fresh water from salt water, but it is very expensive and time-consuming. Experts are also considering floating water from the Congo River in supertankers, but that water is polluted and would have to be heavily processed.
Cutting back water usage even more beyond what has already happened is out of the question, since residents are already barely making it.
So, as outlandish as the idea may sound, an iceberg – the same type that sunk the Titanic – could be the solution.