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WATER CRISES AHEAD by Professor Will Alexander May 6, 2009

Posted by honestclimate in Discussions.
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By Professor Will Alexander

Received by email, 25 April 2009

Please refer to item (19) in the attached findings of the Commission of Enquiry into Water Matters published in 1970 <click to download>. Notice the strong emphasis on the need to develop a long-term forecasting ability for water resources management.

I have achieved this objective. It is demonstrated in the simplest possible terms in the attached memo. It is based on the well-documented 21-year, statistically significant periodicity in the hydrometeorological data. Coincidentally, it demonstrates the linkage with sunspot activity that was noted in the 1970 report.

Climate alarmists have disputed the existence of the periodicity in the data, as well as the linkage between variations in solar activity and concurrent variations in the hydrometeorological processes. Read the memo and judge for yourself.

The tragedy is that both the Water Research Commission and our Department of Water Affairs and Forestry have been seriously misled by climate alarmism. As a consequence, these bodies have failed to appreciate that there is a potential national disaster ahead.

I am now proceeding with the compilation of my handbook. I have completed the drafts of the first four chapters. I will start distributing the drafts for comment next week. It is going to be a long haul.

If you have time, I would greatly appreciate constructive comments in confidence please. These are very sensitive but urgent, nationally important issues. The attached memo is a good starting point.

Memo 18/09

Water crises ahead

Will Alexander

Friday 24 April 2009

Non-random grouping of annual flow sequences in the Vaal River at Vaal Dam.

Mean annual inflow = 1 906 106 m3.

South Africa is about to experience a very serious water supply situation. No precautions are being taken to accommodate it. The Water Research Commission has been led to believe that climate change issues are more important than developing procedures to accommodate the rapidly approaching situation where South Africa’s available resources can no longer meet the rising demand.

This is not a personal issue. It is one of deep professional concern based on many years of experience in this field. The consequences are of considerable national importance. My many attempts to meet and discuss the issue were rebuffed. The Water Research Commission has ignored the wealth of experience by civil engineering academics and practitioners. I have a duty to make this information public as well as to develop and publish procedures to resolve the impasse.

Prediction model

The need to develop a hydrological prediction model was stressed by the Commission of Enquiry into Water Matters in its 1970 report. I have developed this model. I published the results on several occasions in refereed papers and technical reports. The Water Research Commission has chosen to ignore them. Let me give you a simple example.

Vaal Dam is South Africa’s most important dam. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry published inflow data from October 1923 through to September 1996 when interbasin transfers distorted the record. Details are shown in the table above. A cursory examination of the record shows that there were four very distinct reversals from low inflow (drought) sequences to high inflow (flood) sequences. These occurred during the hydrological years beginning October 1933, 1954, 1973 and 1995.

The average annual inflows during the six years prior to and subsequent to the reversals were as follows. Note the consistency in the percentages in the second and third columns. Can anybody claim that these values are purely fortuitous?

Reversal year

Six previous years

Six subsequent years












There is a statistically significant (95%), 21-year periodicity in the annual data. The next reversal is therefore predictable. It is due to take place during the hydrological year commencing October 2016. The inflows during the six years from 2010 through to 2016 will be well below average.

This statistically significant 21-year periodicity is present in many South African records. Writers in the Water Research Commission’s monthly magazine WaterWheel continue to deny its presence.

As a matter of passing interest, the sunspot minima associated with the double sunspot cycle occurred during the calendar years 1933, 1954, 1975, and 1996.  This solar linkage is also denied by climate change scientists. Draw your own conclusions!

Historical background

Recurrent droughts led to the establishment of the Committee of Enquiry into Water Matters in 1966. The Commission published its report in 1970. There has been no comprehensive overview of the water supply situation in South Africa since then.

The report led to two research initiatives. The first was the establishment of the post of Manager: Scientific Services within the Department of Water Affairs. The second was the establishment of an independent Water Research Commission.

All the research on the development and management of South Africa’s water supplies remained the responsibility of the Department. This was achieved by the three hydrological divisions and the planning division within the Department. I occupied the post of Chief of the Division of Hydrology from 1970, and was later promoted to Manager of Scientific Services. I was responsible for all water resource related research and development within the Department. I was also directly responsible for national flood routing and drought operation procedures.

At that time there was close coordination with the Water Research Commission, as well as with other scientific institutions via the CSIR’s National Programme for Environmental Sciences. I chaired its Inland Water Ecosystems Committee.

Throughout this period through to the end of 1984 when I retired from the Department, there was a strong, well co-ordinated and well motivated, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary approach to South Africa’s current and anticipated future water supply problems.

The commercialisation of the CSIR resulted in the collapse and subsequent absence of a coordinating body in the years that followed. The Water Research Commission was in a position to take over the coordinating role but has not done so. Research has become uncoordinated and fragmented at a time when it is most needed.

A fundamentally disturbing feature is that the Water Research Commission has abandoned the very basis for its establishment – the fact that South Africa’s water resources are rapidly approaching the situation where they will no longer be able to meet the rising demands. Instead, it has accepted without question that climate change will adversely affect our future water resource development and management without attempting to define these needs in the first instance.

A crisis situation has developed as a result of this policy. The Water Research Commission’s research portfolio is replete with projects related to climate change. There is not a single research category that addresses the situation that is about to develop when the water demands exceed available supplies. The WRC appears to have forgotten that it was precisely this situation that led to its establishment nearly 40 years ago.

Commission of Enquiry into Water Matters

I have attached a scanned copy of the principal findings of the Commission of Enquiry published in 1970. I bring the following to your attention. Most important of all are the findings that initiated the establishment of the Commission. These are in sections (1) to (5). They relate to the available supplies; expected future consumption; and the conclusion that the demand will exceed the supplies by the end of the past century. We are now living on borrowed time!

Now refer to (8) on the reduction of evaporation losses. It has been known for 40 years that open water surface evaporation is principally the consequence of received solar radiation. Yet very recently a senior climate change scientist claimed that increases in air temperature resulting from global warming will result in appreciable increases in evaporation losses from the stored water. This will adversely affect water availability. This is nonsense. The reverse is true.

If solar radiation is constant and ambient air temperatures increase, the energy gradient between that of the water surface and the adjacent air will decrease, energy transfer will decrease, and consequently evaporation losses will also decrease not increase. Consider what happens when you bask in the sun on the beach. The sun warms your body. Your heated body increases the temperature of the air adjacent to your skin, not vice versa.

It is little wonder that the Water Research Commission’s brochures refer to the need for a better scientific understanding of the hydrological cycle. They have only to ask one of the many experts in applied hydrology. Why are they so shy?

The next field of interest is (13) on seawater desalination. Note the need for combined power generation and desalination units. Why is the WRC silent on this basic future requirement? Seawater desalination is the only viable source of additional water supplies to meet the rising demand in the years ahead. Obviously, this is contrary to the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large scale energy production units. South Africa is going to suffer from avoidable water shortages as a result of this short-sighted view.

Another section of personal interest is (19) where the development of a climate prediction model is strongly recommended. Prompted by this recommendation I developed and verified a regional drought and flood prediction model. Climatologists world-wide including South Africa have yet to develop this prediction ability despite the tremendous international research effort. South Africa’s climate change scientists continue to deny its validity.

When reading through the attached findings, ask yourself to what extent water resources research knowledge is greater now than it was 40 years ago.


I address all these issues and more in my handbook on Water Resource Development and Management that is now in preparation. Its purpose is to fill all the unaddressed gaps and provide a sound basis for the future development and operation of our water resources as requirements exceed availability. The first half of the Handbook will be on water resource development, and the second on water resource management. The chapters on water resource development are already being assembled. These are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Applied hydrometeorology.
  3. Analytical methods.
  4. Hydrological statistics.
  5. Extreme floods.
  6. Time series analyses.
  7. Solar linkage.
  8. Extreme droughts.
  9. Climate prediction model.

I have already  completed the first drafts of chapters 1 to 4.  I will start distributing the drafts for comment from next week onwards.

Everybody should appreciate that national water crises are imminent and that South Africa is totally unprepared for them.



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