Fires put strain on water supply

Fires put strain on water supply

11 February 2009

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South Africa — Water levels in the Cape Town region are being put under pressure by the thousands of litres of water needed to bring a single veld fire under control.

Farouk Robertson, spokesperson for the City of Cape Town’s department of water and sanitation, referred to the current dam levels and said fires had a big effect on the water available for human consumption.

When Bambi water containers are used by helicopters to drop thousands of litres of water on veld fires, they use sea water, unprocessed dam water and already filtered water from reservoirs, depending on what is closest to the fire.

When fire trucks are used, water hoses are connected to the nearest taps and already filtered drinking water is used.

“Look at our neighbours in the Southern Cape. There is already crisis management due to the water shortage. Every drop of water counts,” said Robertson.

“We have to manage our water supply to ensure there is water for future human consumption.”

The water tanks of fire trucks hold about 5 000 to 6 000 litres water, about the same amount of water that an average household uses per month, he explained.

Philip Prins, manager of firefighting at the Table Mountain National Park, said that in January last year, 250 loads of water per helicopter were transported in Bambi containers to fight fires in the park. The containers can transport between 3 000 and 3 500 litres of water at a time.

Prins also pointed out that at only one fire last weekend, four fire trucks were used to continuously supply water from Saturday to Sunday afternoon to fight a fire in an area of 1.2 hectares of plantation.

“This means thousands of litres of water were used,” he said.

People had to prevent fires, to also help save water, pleaded Robertson.

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