May 11 – The ‘Day Zero’ When Cape Town Will Run Out of Water
Cape Town will run out of water on May 10th according to the mayor. Cape Town would be come the first city in modern times to completely run out of water.
Patricia de Lille, mayor of Cape Town, South Africa has warned that May 11, 2018 will be the day when most taps in Cape Town run dry. This will be the crown of a severe water crisis that has plagued the city since 2015. If the day christened “day zero” really does come to pass, the city will be the first to completely run out of water in modern times.
The dawn of the water crisis in Cape Town began when a drought hit the country in 2015 after a particularly severe El Niño season. The drought persisted through years that followed, causing many water reservoirs to dry up significantly.
Day Zero: Worst drought ever
Though the drought ended in many parts of the country in August 2016 after heavy rains, the Western Cape Province continued to languish. Research conducted by the University of Cape Town found this drought to be the worst occurrence since 1933. Their research also found that the drought is likely to occur once every 300 years or so.
Cape Town is roughly the same size as Los Angeles, with a population of about 3.74 million people relying on rain water collected in a series of six dams for their water supply. The dams are large enough to hold water for the city’s supply, but are not designed to store water in the event of a long-lasting drought. Currently the water level in the dams stand at 25.1% collectively.
In trying to mitigate the situation, Cape Town authorities have responded with drastic rationing of the water supply. Some residents who have been accused of callous water consumption have been advised to practice caution and employ water saving techniques. There are also plans to cut down the supply of water to 25 liters (about 6.5 gallons) per person in the event that Day Zero actually occurs. The water will also be limited to several collection points where people will queue to get their share. Hospitals and schools will not be affected by the cutoff.
Before the day was set to May 11, it had previously been placed at mid-April. The agricultural sector, which spends a huge percentage of the water, reduced its consumption rate by 50%. While this improved the water levels and prompted Day Zero to be pushed forward, 37,000 jobs in the sector were lost, leaving more than 50,000 people at risk of abject poverty. The water crisis has also led to the sector suffering financial losses totaling to about 1.17 billion dollars.
The wealthier portion of Cape Town’s residents have begun investing in private water tanks in preparation for water depletion. Unfortunately, a sizable portion of the city’s population cannot afford such tanks, and are left vulnerable to the inevitable day zero to come.