The second largest city in South Africa is on the brink of running out of water as it suffers from one of the worst droughts to hit the region in over a century. Three years of below-average rainfall has drained Cape Town’s reservoirs, leaving them at 30 percent capacity; a finite amount to quench the thirst of the 3.7 million people who live there.
If the number drops to 13.5 percent capacity, officials will be forced to turn off the faucets. If the worst comes to fruition, Cape Town’s “day zero,” as some are referring to it, would be the first time a major city in the developed world has run out of water. Estimates say this dire moment could come as soon as this April.
The drought has been exacerbated by the fact that the city’s residents continue to ignore warnings regarding water consumption. In December, officials set the cap on the amount of water residents could use at 87 liters a day, but 60 percent of the population ignored them. Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille recently announced that the city will no longer tolerate overconsumption. “We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water,” she said in a recent statement. “We must force them.”
Currently, there is a total ban on all outdoor watering, such as lawns, filling pools, and washing cars. Residents have also been told to shower instead of taking baths and to “keep it to two minutes.” If day zero does, indeed, come to Cape Town, residents will have to resort to collected bottled water at distribution centers across the city. The cap on such dispersals has been set at a WHO-recommended amount of 6.5 gallons a day.