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article imageWill Cape Town be world's first major city to run out of water?

By Karen Graham     Feb 4, 2018 in Environment
Cape Town - Residents of Cape Town, South Africa's second most populous city, will run out of water by mid-April according to local government authorities. Residents have been told to limit usage to 50 liters per person per day. An average bath holds 80 liters.
Population growth, over-development, aging infrastructure, and ongoing drought conditions exacerbated by climate change have created an urban water crisis that knows no end. Actually, this crisis has been building since 2005, when water restrictions first began in Cape Town.
In May 2017, in a speech before the full council, 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”.
And today, the crisis has reached the point where over 4.0 million residents will soon be standing in lines waiting to get their daily ration of the precious liquid. The water shortage will force the city to shut off taps to homes and businesses because reservoirs have gotten perilously low, a possibility officials now consider almost inevitable.
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
Fully 9.0 percent of Cape Town's economy depends on tourism. Last year, over 10 million tourists visited the city. Now, hotels are asking guests not to use baths and to limit showers to two minutes or less, while some restaurants are switching to disposable cups and ditching table linen.
“There’s no doubt that the knock-on effect of the water conservation crossroads we find ourselves in has had an impact on tourism,” said Enver Duminy, the chief executive officer at Cape Town Tourism. While no exact numbers are available yet, there have already been numerous cancellations. And in a country with a jobless rate of 25 percent, a decrease in tourism could lead to economic disaster.
Cape Town preparing for "Day Zero"
How do you prepare for the inevitable? Officials are already prepping 200 emergency water stations outside grocery stores and other gathering places. Each station will have to accommodate 20,000 people. The city will also be using military installations to store emergency water supplies.
Desiccated tree trunks protrude from the floor of Theewaterskloof Dam  a major water supply for Cape...
Desiccated tree trunks protrude from the floor of Theewaterskloof Dam, a major water supply for Cape Town. The city is grappling with its worst drought in a century
Rodger BOSCH, AFP/File
It is already illegal to be using taps to fill pools, water gardens, or wash cars and last week, water theft patrols were increased at natural springs where fights have already broken out between groups trying to get water, according to local media. It appears the groups are "unscrupulous traders" who have driven up the price of bottled water.
Sadly, residents of the city have been well aware of the water shortage, but more than half of residents ignored those volunteer restrictions, according to National Geographic News. This forced city officials to apply even steeper restrictions on water usage last month.
So how much is 50 liters of water a day? It is only one-sixth what the average American uses every day. And if Cape Town residents are forced to use only 25 liters of water when "Day Zero" is reached, that will be a tragedy.
Water  essential to life  can be had by a turn of the spigot.
Water, essential to life, can be had by a turn of the spigot.
Rmrfstar (CC BY-SA 3.0)
"I'm not sure if we'll be able to avert Day Zero," says Kevin Winter, lead researcher at an urban water group at the University of Cape Town. "We're using too much water, and we can't contain it. It's tragic."
David Olivier, a research fellow at the Global Change Institute at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand, has an interesting comment on the attitudes of people toward the universal right to have water. He said "The fundamental problem is the kind of lifestyle we're living. There's almost a sense of entitlement that we have a right to consume as much as we want."
"The attitude and reaction of most posts on social media is indignation. It's 'we pay our taxes' and therefore we should be as comfortable as possible.”
More about Cape town stadium, day zero, Zimbabwe, governmental management, Water crisis
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