How to survive a drought: Watch 'water porn'

This is the next installment in Cape Town Diary, a series exploring how the South African city's water crisis is affecting the daily life of residents. Raymond Joseph is a freelance journalist living and working in Cape Town. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN)Ever since I learned that Cape Town could become the first major city to run out of water, I've found myself becoming increasingly hooked on porn. "Water porn" that is.

With the nightmarish prospect of Day Zero looming large, and the imposition of severe water restrictions, I began to google information about drought, water and solutions -- and also watch endless feel-good videos of water, aka, water porn.
And, now that the first real winter rains have fallen on drought-stricken Cape Town and its equally dry hinterland, my appetite for water porn has increased even more.
Raymond Joseph
But before you think I'm some kind of pervert, water porn -- like "space porn," "word porn" and "food porn" -- is just another way to describe being a keen observer, rather than an active participant.
    I can't stop watching videos of water levels rising in dams, pans and rivers. But my favorites are of dried up waterfalls that have come back to life as they cascade down mountains, streams that have come alive once again in Cape Town's urban forests and videos of pelting rain shot on mobile phones.
    I even find myself watching some of them again and again: like a rain dance for Cape Town performed by the Joburg Ballet on the desolate floor of the Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town's largest water supply source. The dance is set against a dystopian background of dead trees and vines that disappeared years ago when the dam was first flooded, but are now visible once again on the dry dam floor. It captures the seriousness of the drought, even as the dancer and the music speak of hope that it will pass and the rains will once again return.
    And I'm not the only one. I asked on Facebook if others were also hooked and got a flood of confirmation "likes."
    Justin Hewitt said: "Water porn is a word we use when you are fixated on valves, taps, RPZs (reduced pressure zones) dumps and DAB (a brand of pressure pump used in plumbing)," and supplied a technical drawing of a water system he is designing.
    Marguerite DeMarillac St Julien says her "relationship with water issues was becoming toxic, so I had to break it off. ... It was having a negative effect on my psyche." She adds that she still thinks about water issues "but now I'm single and enjoying my freedom."
    And when Johannesburg experienced a severe drought last year, Georgina Guides says she "obsessively watched" the website of the local water authority to monitor dam levels. "I knew the days they were updated and how long it took a rain event to affect dam levels. And I watched Accuweather (a weather forecasting website) equally obsessively for reports."
    The number of times Cape Town water-related videos are being watched and shared is further confirmation of this phenomenon. The drought ballet video, for example, was viewed almost 29,000 times. And one by Cape Town vlogger Adam Spires, which explains how much water is used to produce different products, has been viewed more than 276,000 times.
    A few days ago, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University upgraded its earlier predictions for below average rainfall in the drought-stricken Western Cape province. The IRI is now predicting a higher likelihood for "above normal" rainfall during the traditional heavy rainfall months of June, July and August.
    More good news came when the city of Cape Town announced last week that three new desalination plants are about to come on stream finally, delivering 16 million liters of water a day.
    The drought has also gotten people thinking out of the box. A conference will be held this month to discuss the feasibility of towing giant icebergs to Cape Town to help alleviate the water crisis. This is no pie-in-the-sky plan; there are serious scientists involved, and marine salvage expert Nick Sloane, who is best known for leading the operation to salvage the wrecked Costa Concordia, the once-doomed ship, is behind the project.
    The water crisis has also sparked all kinds of innovation and marketing opportunities, including building an artificial wetland to purify contaminated water.
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    As I sit writing, it is pouring down and the wind is howling, with several continuous days of heavy rains forecast for Cape Town and its dam catchment areas. But the hard reality is that even though the first good winter rains have fallen, it will take as long as three years to normalize the situation.
    And even though Cape Town has managed to halve its water use, it remains business unusual for residents -- taking 90-second showers or super shallow or bucket baths, collecting water at natural springs, harvesting rainwater and using gray water to flush the toilet.
    But at least we have YouTube and social media to give us hope, as we wait for the winter rainfall months that hopefully will end the worst drought in a century.