Officials in Cape Town have predicted that the city’s water deposits will be completely depleted sometime between April 16 and May 11, a day labeled Day Zero. The South African capital would become the first metropolis in history to turn off the taps.
According to the Washington Post, Cape Town will restrict water access when Day Zero arrives, leaving approximately four million people without running water. The army remains on standby as the capital prepares for the catastrophe to strike. While many have anxiously bought large quantities of bottled water, some of the richest residents have dug boreholes in an attempt to locate untapped water resources.
Reuters reported that other Capetonians have resorted to lining up overnight to receive water rations. Cape Town officials presented a plan to establish approximately 200 water collection points across the city in which each person can draw a maximum of 50 liters per day, which totals a volume seven times fewer than what the average U.S. citizen consumes daily and amounts to the equivalent of a six-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead.
Authorities have suggested strict limitations on water consumption in order to exploit the last of the resources.
“Capetonians must continue reducing consumption if we are to avoid Day Zero,” Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town Ian Neilson said. Officials worry about fears to public health as citizens stop washing their hands and food with clean water, according to News24. Cholera, food poisoning, typhoid, listeria, and other diseases are easily spread from November to May, a period experts call diarrhea season.
Two years of incredibly low rainfall prompted the water crisis. Fewer than 155 millimeters of rain were recorded at Cape Town International Airport in 2017, compared to more than 500 in 2014. Moreover, a three-year drought as a result of high air pressure resulted in the country’s two driest years on record in 2015 and 2017, further exacerbating the crisis.
Because no major city has ever run out of water, it is difficult to forecast the effects of this crisis. However, the country has already suffered from a volatile and unstable political system under President Jacob Zuma amid calls for his resignation, and an aggravation of the current calamity would not bode well for Zuma’s regime.
Capetonians have already begun to voice their discontent with the government’s handling of the crisis. The South African reported that hundreds demonstrated on January 29 against the management of water in Cape Town, and the horde eventually chanted, “Water for all, the mayor must fall.”
Their concerns are well-founded. Researchers have indicated that the Cape Town city council failed to effectively adapt the water supply to the needs of such a large city. Cape Town’s population has increased by 79 percent since 1995, while the water supply has increased by a comparatively meager 15 percent.
Some, however, are more critical of the citizens’ response. David Olivier, a fellow at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand told National Geographic, “The fundamental problem is the kind of lifestyle we’re living. ere’s almost a sense of entitlement that we have a right to consume as much as we want. e attitude and reaction of most posts on social media is indignation. It’s ‘we pay our taxes’ and, therefore, we should be as comfortable as possible.”
According to the consulting firm Deloitte, several other African cities face continuous water shortages. These include Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana.
The prospect of a city running out of water threatens not only Africa but the entire world. e demand for water has increased dramatically in recent years while the supply has simultaneously fallen, leading experts to predict that two-thirds of the world’s population may face daily water shortages as soon as 2025.