Cape Town’s Day Zero: South African Capital is Running Out of Water

Fagjun | Published 2018-01-25 09:16

After three years of drought, Cape Town is fast approaching Day Zero, or the day that it becomes the first major city in the world to lose its public water supply.

Cape Town is in trouble.

Cape Town is in trouble.


Can you imagine living without easy and convenient access to water? If not, you’re lucky. The citizens of Cape Town may not have to imagine this possibility soon enough, since it can become a reality for them in less than a hundred days. Day Zero was initially predicted to fall on April 22 of this year, but new estimates push that date up to April 21. This means that the city’s water reservoirs are unlikely to last beyond that day.


City officials warn that once Day Zero rolls around, “the City will be forced to turn off most of the taps and every resident will have to queue for 25 litres of water per day.” April 21 will soon be upon us, and urgent measures are necessary to ensure that Cape Town doesn’t lose its water supply.

Water Restrictions

Capetonians are going to have to cut back on some luxuries.

Capetonians are going to have to cut back on some luxuries.


Officials have also asked residents to cut their daily water consumption by as much as half to avoid the complete loss of the city’s water. Patricia de Lille, mayor of Cape Town, has said that residents must lower their water consumption from 87 liters to 50 liters a day by February 1. The collective water consumption must go from 500 million liters a day to 450 million liters. Even so, a city official divulged that Cape Town has just recently consumed 618 million liters of water in a single day.


Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done if the city wants to make Day Zero a very distant possibility. Officials have determined that given the gravity of the situation, they need to be firmer and perhaps even harsher. Thus, the city has enacted level 6 water restrictions. This means that residents cannot use municipal water to hose down pavement or wash vehicles. The use of portable play pools is also prohibited, as is the use of municipal water to fill pools.


Those who violate these restrictions may face a fine. Even with all these restrictions and the corresponding consequences, however, only 54% of the city’s residents are hitting the targets.

Once in a Millenium

Will Cape Town be able to avoid Day Zero?

Will Cape Town be able to avoid Day Zero?


While this is a dire situation, it’s not very surprising to some. City planners have already figured out that Cape Town’s population growth is overwhelming its water capacity. The city’s population has almost doubled in the last 20 years, and there was a three-year drought to boot. Not to mention the fact that this drought was at the level of a “once in a millenium” event, and it can impact even the best water system there is. Thus, the odds truly are stacked against the people of Cape Town.


The city has launched a public awareness campaign and taken measures such as leak detection and repairs. They’re also extending the use of effluent water to stave off the use of drinking water for purposes other than drinking, as well as building desalination plants.

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