Cape Town fast approaching Day Zero

Cape Town is hugely popular with international tourists and is an important economic hub for South Africa. Yet it could soon become the world’s first major city to run out of water. As water reserves continue to decrease, residents fear the dreaded Day Zero when officials will turn off residential taps.

The day the taps will run dry

Cape Town is calling the day when the taps will be turned off Day Zero. This day will mark when the city has no drinking water left; quite a scary prospect for the 4 million people that reside in the second largest city in South Africa.

The worst drought in over a century

The city is in the middle of a three-year-long drought, the worst drought the country has experienced in over a century. Normally during the winter, average rainfall is measured at 508 mm. However, over the last 3 years, rainfall has been recorded at just 153 mm, 221 mm and 327 mm.

The city’s largest water reservoir, Theewaterskloof Dam, has been shrinking to a dangerously low level. It is currently less than 13% full.

Local authorities are blaming a growing population and a rapidly changing climate for intensifying the stress on water availability.

The battle to save water

Residents are under strict instructions as to how much water they can use daily.

The council is handing out fines to those who use more water than their daily allowance and are publicising household water consumption. This allows neighbours to find out who is using the most water in their neighbourhood. This is just one attempt to encourage residents to stick to the limit.

At the start of February, the limit for water consumption per person was reduced to 50 litres a day. To put this into perspective, this amount of water is less than a sixth of what the average American uses per day.

Residents are limiting showers to 2 minutes, doing laundry far less and recycling the water they use to wash up as grey water to flush the toilet. Cape Town politicians are even promoting unwashed hair, saying it is a symbol of “good citizenship”.

Officials have lowered the pipe pressure and have now made it illegal to use water to wash cars, water gardens and fill pools.

When will they run out?

The date of Day Zero depends on how much water residents use. If residents ignore their water limits it will come around quicker.

Day Zero has been pushed back already from mid-April to 11th of May as further limitations were put into place in February.

Capetonians remaining optimistic

There is still hope that the beginning of the rainy season in May will help the city to avoid a complete shut off and the heavens will finally open over the city. Fingers crossed that Cape Town doesn’t have to endure a Day Zero anytime soon.

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