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article imageCape Town has less than 10 percent usable water remaining

By Karen Graham     May 31, 2017 in Environment
Cape Town - In a speech before the full council on Wednesday, Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille described the scenario of the city running out of water as a “crisis of catastrophic proportions," warning that water scarcity was now the “New Normal”.
One week ago, Mayor Zille declared the Western Cape province a disaster area because of the relentless drought, asking residents to manage their water supplies more efficiently as the South African region tries to cope with dwindling water supplies.
But the urgency and foreboding in her message on Wednesday point to the seriousness of the water problem in the region. Cape Town now has less than 10 percent usable water left for its approximately 4.0 million residents. The city has now implemented Level Four water restrictions.
In her speech to the full council today, Executive Mayor Zille pointed out that the city has had water restrictions ion place since 2005, and in 2015, they were made even tighter.
Mayor Zille speaks on  a heightened approach to avoiding water shortages and achieving long-term wat...
Mayor Zille speaks on a heightened approach to avoiding water shortages and achieving long-term water security on Wednesday.
City of Cape Town
Reliance on the rainy season a way of life
With the city relying on winter rains every year to replenish the reservoir system that supplies the city's water, it is more like putting all of your eggs in one basket, though. And the mayor said that although everyone has been really conscientious about using water more efficiently, it appears this is not enough.
Zille said: "Two days ago we announced that dam storage levels are now at 19.7 percent, which is 0.8 percent down from a week ago. With the last 10 percent of a dam’s water mostly not being usable, dam levels are effectively at 9.7 percent."
Cape Town resident Suzanne Buckley says the new restrictions mean adapting to a new lifestyle for her and everyone else, reports CNN News. "We have buckets in our shower and bathroom sink to save excess water," Buckley said. "The gray water is then used to flush our toilets."
Speaking with CNN News, Mayor Zille explained her concerns over the growing and catastrophic water crisis: "Climate change is a reality and we cannot depend on rainwater alone to fill our dams but must look at alternative sources like desalination and underground aquifers."
The Western Cape usually get's its water supply replenished during the rainy season, from June through September every year. But the rains have not been as plentiful over the past number of years and the forecast for this year's rainy season is glum, indeed.
How severe are the new water restrictions?
The average American uses about 80 and 100 gallons (302-378 liters) of water per day. Usage includes flushing toilets, taking showers or baths, brushing teeth and doing dishes, laundry and watering the lawn. Now, think about being restricted to using 25 gallons of water per day.
Untitled
Alliance for Water Efficiency
City officials are also behind a campaign to get everyone thinking about water conservation. It's called "if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down campaign," and it can save up to 10 liters of water each time the toilet is not flushed. But in reading comments on the city's Facebook page, you can also see another side to the water crisis.
Many comments are asking almost the same question - The drought is not something new, so why has the city waited so long to address the crisis? And in retrospect, that is a very good point. One person commented: "What amazes me about this crisis is that nothing has been done in the preceding years to ensure that this did not happen. Surely contingency plans have been put in place to ensure that we have backup plans for the drought years?"
Jean Brown commented: "City of Cape Town - seriously, tell us, how can Capetonians mobilize to meet the ramifications of this water crisis head on? Storm the stores and buy water for ourselves and domestic workers/gardeners/laborers. Dig for water? Help us be better prepared, please, for what is to come."
California went through a similar situation and has a heck of a lot more than 4.0 million people to worry about. Yet, early on, conservation and other remedial measures were put in place to mitigate the damages, including the depletion of water supplies.
More about Capetown, Drought, catastrophic proportions, 10 remaining, Management