CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: DANGEROUSLY LOW WATER LEVELS MAY LEAD TO REGULAR DISTRIBUTION SHUT-OFF
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By Cori Marshall
Cape Town and Capetonians are faced with an unprecedented water crisis after years of minimal precipitation. The situation has forced the City of Cape Town to implement water restrictions as it is confronted with running out of water.
Because of the lack of rainfall the dams that supply water to the city are at a combined 24.4% of capacity according to the water-dashboard website that has been set up to keep people informed of the situation.
According to Secretary: Political for the South African High Commission, Riedwaan Ahmed "residents of Cape Town are grappling with Level 6b water restrictions." What this means is that individual water use is limited to 50 litres a day. Ahmed added that people "are being encouraged to adjust their behaviour by, for example, limiting showers to 90 seconds."
Cape Town is "aggressively rolling out water pressure management initiatives and the installation of water management devices at the properties of high (water) users," Ahmed said, "enforcement measures are also being introduced to ensure that all water users adhere to the water restrictions."
"Some are referring to this as a 'one in a thousand year' drought"
Riedwaan Ahmed, First Secretary: Political South African High Commission
There are different approaches being implemented in Cape Town to secure their water supply. Ahmed explains that they "include drilling for groundwater (sources) and the finalization of desalination plants."
According to the Cape Town website which monitors the progress of the alternative measures the City is at 62% of finalizing four desalination plants, two groundwater sources, and one recycled water plant. Not one of the projects is 100% complete, they range between 50% to 72% completion. There is another wave of 12 projects that are still in various stages of planning.
All of the measures that are being undertaken by and for Capetonians aim to avoid "Day Zero". Ahmed explained that it "is a date that estimates when the City's dams will reach a level that no longer allows for regular water distribution." The water system may have to be turned off.
In the event that Cape Town does shut off its water distribution system "residents would then need to collect 25 litres of water per person per day from points of distribution located across the City," Ahmed said. He added that "this drastic step may be necessary to ensure that critical services and schools continue to function during the worst part of the drought."
Day Zero was initially estimated to arrive in April of this year, though since has been pushed back to July 9 due to the water conservation measures. Ahmed clarified that the date "may be brought forward or pushed back depending on factors like adherence to water restrictions and the arrival of rain."
The water crisis in Cape Town should open eyes around the world at what could possibly happen in an uncertain climate-changed future. Ahmed said that "climate change and drought conditions are a global issue and not isolated to South Africa."
"The drought is not restricted to Cape Town, but affects all of the provinces surrounding it," Ahmed said, and "this situation has provided South Africa as a global benchmark for how world-class cities respond to future climate threats."
Everyone has to do their part in addressing the effects of climate change, though Cape Town may provide valuable lessons about future water security. Measures that have been put in place to curb water use have aided in pushing Day Zero back three months, there is an effect. Ahmed holds the hope that "Cape Town's winter rainfall season will bring some relief this year."