Stunning from sea to sky, there is no other place quite like Cape Town, the single most beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain Park, sunshine, and African happy feet penguins. The famous world-renowned tourist destination could now become famous for being the first major city in the world to run out of water.
The city perched on the southern tip of the African continent has 90 days before the water in its reservoirs run dry. Three years of unprecedented drought and low rainfall have contributed towards the catastrophic water crisis. There is also the case of supply and demand where the city's growing population with an increased water consumption is to be blamed. Cape Town has a population of four million residents.
Unless residents of the city don't adopt ways to drastically reduce the consumption of water, the taps are very likely to be turned off because there just won't be any water left to deliver.
Authorities have predicted that the city has up until April 22, which Mayor Patricia De Lille calls 'Day Zero.'
So is this all a scare tactic?
Well, no. The chances of Day Zero approaching are very much real and it is calculated every week based on the reservoir capacity and daily consumption. The city won't literally run out of water; in most cases, reservoirs can't be drained to the last drop as slit and debris make the last bit of the water utterly unusable. The authorities have decided that when the reservoir capacity drops to 13.5%, the taps will be turned off for all but essential services, like hospitals.
What happens after the taps are turned off?
According to Time, Residents will be required to go to one of about 200 municipal water points throughout the city where they can collect a maximum of 25 liters of water a day. Armed guards will be stationed at the posts to ensure peace and safety and that no one takes more than their share. Craiglist is already full of listings of companies willing to send in truckloads of water from areas less affected by the drought crisis, for a price.
How are the residents helping?
Officials have urged citizens to conserve water by restricting their use of water to 87 liters per person per day. That's roughly an equivalent of a two-minute shower. The residents have been asked to refrain from using water to wash their cars or water their gardens, from flushing the toilets only when absolutely necessary, recycling bathing water whenever possible, and limiting dishwasher and washing machine facilities to a bare minimum. Water storing tanks are back in fashion and unwashed hair is the new thing among the many residents of the city.
Public restrooms have been adorned with signs saying 'let it mellow.'
Are the limitations imposed helping?
Day Zero was moved forward to a week earlier because efforts to curb water shortage haven't seen any improvement. Only 54% of residents are hitting the required target. But the city does have few options for punishment to individuals who abuse the use of water. They will ensure everyone's compliance and each individual, regardless of who they are and what they've done will pay a price.
Did anyone see this coming?
Yes and no. It has long been pointed out that Cape Town's water supply can barely keep up with the population growth, which has seen itself double over the past 20 years. Climatologists say the persistent three-year drought on this scale is a “once a millennium” event. Even cities with the best plans for water would have taken a serious hit in the current situation.
Now the city is curbing the water crisis by installing desalination plants and looking to crack groundwater extraction. However, it is unlikely for any of these to work before Day Zero arrives, or even so before the rainfall set to arrive in May. They will more or less be an utter waste of time, effort, and money. Climate change researchers have warned everyone to expect much dryer days and fewer rains.
Cape Town sees groups of tourists every year from around the world who come to discover unique experiences and to experience an unforgettable adventure. With the famous coastlines of Cape Town, many come expecting to be surrounded by water. But as the city saw its travelers descend for the peak summer tourist season, they greeted them with airport signs imploring “Slow the flow: Save H2O” and “Don’t waste a drop!” among many others.
“The city of Cape Town could conceivably become the first major city in the world to run out of water, and that could happen in the next four months,” said Dr. Anthony Turton, a professor at the Centre for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, speaking to The New York Times.
“It’s not an impending crisis — we’re deep, deep, deep in crisis.” A growing number of tech companies are figuring out new ways for effective water management - applying "smart" solutions to challenges posed by water.
For instance, a French company called CityTaps has made it their goal to streamline water to urban households with the help of their smart water meters that are linked to an Internet-based management system.
Users buy "water credits" via their mobile phones and a smart meter dispenses only as much water as what has been paid for. When credit balances fall short, users are alerted and if they fail to top up their account, they stop receiving the water supply.
"The internet of things offers new avenues for technological innovation in the water field, mostly by providing real-time data that - we hope - can be used to help utilities become ever more efficient and high-performing," says Gregoire Landel, chief executive of CityTaps.
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