Cape Town’s main water supply was from the Theewaterskloof dam outside Grabouw…
But amid its worst drought in more than 100 years…
Cape Town’s date with destiny as the world’s first major city to run dry, looms.
“I cannot stress it enough: all residents must save water and use less than 87 liters [19 gallons] per day… We must avoid Day Zero and saving water is the only way we can do this.”
Not missing the opportunity to levy extra taxes on the populace, the city mayor has also impeded a “drought charge” in order to fund new water projects, such as constructing desalination plants.
But today, Cape Town’s leaders have instructed residents to use only 50 liters of water daily from Feb. 1, down from the current 87-liter limit.
“We have reached the point of no return,” Patricia de Lille, Cape Town’s mayor, warned this month. With anger in her voice she added: “It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care.”
Security guards made sure people took only an allotted amount (25 liters maximum in one line and 15 liters in another ‘express’ line).
“There are a lot of people who have been in denial and now they suddenly realize this is for real,” said Shirley Curry, who waited to fill a plastic container with spring water from one of several taps outside a South African Breweries facility in the Newlands suburb.
As The FT reports, climatologists say that another year of drought cannot be ruled out.
They add that Cape Town’s stark inequalities have exacerbated the crisis. Vast lawns and swimming pools in mainly white suburbs are draining away efforts to conserve resources, they say.
“This has not been a natural disaster,” says Gina Ziervogel, an associate professor at the University of Cape Town, who has been advising the city. “It is entirely man-made.”
This weekend, Cape Town’s water and sanitation department said it was investigating reports that some retailers might be illegally selling municipal tap water after people were seen lining up with empty bottles at two malls.
Some residents are supplementing water supply by collecting from natural springs in the city.
“This crisis will demand a whole of society approach, where we all pull together to get through this,” the city said in a statement that acknowledged “panic” among residents fretting over the possible difficulties ahead.
‘Day Zero’ is projected to arrive on April 12 but some fear it could come sooner, while others hope it won’t happen if rationing works and rains eventually come.
If ‘Day Zero’ arrives, many people would have to go to collection points for a daily ration of 25 liters.