Massive French funding deal brings hope to drought-stricken Western Cape

A multi-million rand funding deal aimed at alleviating the ongoing drought in the Western Cape is expected to be announced by the provincial and French governments.

"The technology will deliver 100 kilolitres of fresh water daily through an innovative, affordable and green process," the Western Cape government said on Friday.

The deal, which entails about R8.6m in grants, will be commissioned by the end of October in Witsand in the Hessequa Municipality.

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The funding from the French Treasury is aimed at implementing innovative green technologies and is expected to bring to South Africa its first solar-powered desalination unit.

Hessequa, located 250km east of Cape Town, consists of several coastal villages that suffer from a structural water deficit, even outside of drought periods. Witsand village, which has critical water shortages, was designated for the implementation of the solar-powered desalination unit.

The desalination plant will use Osmosun technology developed by French company Mascara Renewable Water.

World first

It is the world's first reverse osmosis desalination technology coupled with photovoltaic solar energy without batteries.

It is designed to supply coastal or borehole-dependent communities with drinking water at a competitive price and without CO2 emissions.

Because of the three-year drought, the Department of Water Affairs cut the amount of irrigation water to farmers in the province by 60% from last year.

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Cobus Olivier of the South African Weather Service previously said confidence levels of long-term predictions for South Africa's winter rainfall were low.

He said early winter rainfall was likely, and that June, July and August rains could be above average. However, confidence levels of the accuracy of this were low.

The French Ministry for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, headed by Nicolas Hulot, and the Western Cape government's MEC for Finance, Dr Ivan Meyer, are to announce the deal on Monday.