Goodbye, Cape Town


by Robert A. Nelson

Over a billion people lack access to water, and nearly 3 billion face water scarcity for at least one month each year. Many major cities are in dire straits: Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, Miami, Las Vegas, and more.

The city of Cape Town is the most desperate case at the moment. South Africa is suffering a drought that occurs only once in 300 years. Water levels behind dams are at an average of 25%, and are dropping by as much as 1 percent a day. Residents and tourists are allowed 50 liters (about 13 gallons) a day, and are fined for violations. The city is counting down to “Day Zero” in May, when water taps will run dry.

Patricia de Lille, the mayor of Cape Town, recently issued an angry warning to residents:

“We have reached the point of no return. It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care.”

Yo, Cape Town! If y’all had listened to Theodore Schumann back in 1945, you wouldn’t be begging the gods for water today.

That’s because Schumann, who South Africa’s chief meteorologist at that time, invented a huge electrified fence that was intended to condense the cloud plume atop Table Mountain (altitude 3400 ft.) into 30 million gallons per day (almost 3000 lb./sec.) of pure water. Schumann proposed the construction of two metal screen fences, each 150 ft. tall, 9000 ft. long, and 1 ft apart, charged with 50- 100 thousand volts of low amperage electricity. The ionized air would serve to collect atmospheric humidity as droplets on the metal fence, as illustrated:

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