Can towing an iceberg to Cape Town solve city's water crisis? Scientists think so

WION Web Team Johannesburg, South Africa May 04, 2018, 11.53 AM(IST)

An iceberg floats in Andvord Bay, Antarctica. Photograph:( Reuters )

Desperate times call for desperate measures. That seems to be the case as scientists are faced with the situation to provide water to parched Cape Town which is in the grip of a catastrophic three-year-long drought.

Scientists are suggesting moving an iceberg from Antarctica to South Africa's Cape Town - a distance of not just an inch or two, or a couple of kilometres but a massive 4 thousand 700 kilometres.

The proposal has been suggested by Cape-Town based salvage master Nick Sloane who refloated the Italian passenger liner Costa Concordia in the Mediterranean in 2013. The entire cost of the project is estimated to be $130 million.

Billions of tons of iceberg break off the Antactic ice shelf every year and drift with ocean currents and gradually melt as they enter warmer waters.

According to Sloane, a suitable iceberg could be located within about 1,000 nautical miles of Cape Town, nudged into the right ocean current and slowly floated to a position just offshore.

With processing, Sloane suggests, the berg could be melted for drinking water at a rate of up to 150 million liters per day. Assuming a 100-million-ton iceberg, this would satisfy up to a third of the parched city's needs for a year.

As per Sloane's plan, his team could wrap passing icebergs in fabric skirts so that they do not evaporate in thin air. Large tankers could then guide the blocks into the Benguela Current that flows along the west coast of southern Africa.

A single iceberg "could produce about 150 million litres per day for about a year, which is enough to quench the thirst of about one-third of Cape Town," according to Sloane.

He said he is planning to hold a conference to try and sell the project to city officials and investors. The city council was not immediately available for comment.

South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought that hit its southern and western regions after 2015 and 2016 turned into two of the driest years on record.

Tough water restrictions are already in place and Cape Town authorities have warned that taps could run dry altogether as early as this month.