Water run out: Days are numbered in Cape Town

Residents are bracing for "Day Zero" as South Africa's second largest city could see the end of free flowing water by April 12.


Three years of intensive drought leaves Cape Town, South Africa counting the days until the city runs out of water. Residents are bracing for “Day Zero” as South Africa’s second largest city could see the end of free flowing water by April 12.

“Due to a drop in the dam levels of 1.4 percent, ‘Day Zero’ has, as of today, moved forward to 12 April,” Ian Neilson, the deputy mayor, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Due to climate change and population growth, officials say the “region is experiencing the worst drought in a century,” according to NPR. If water runs out, Cape Town will be the first city in the developed world to experience such a catastrophic event.

“People are reusing some of the water that they’ve used in other areas and finding other uses for it around the household,” Pumza Fihlani, a BBC correspondent in Johannesburg, said in an interview with Robin Young from Here & Now. “This means limiting the amount of water you drink, limiting the showers that you take.”

The local government claims it tried to place water restrictions on residents previously by limiting the use of appliances and shortening the length of showers, but starting Feb. 1, Cape Town “will force residents to cut their water consumption to 13.2 gallons per day, down from 23 gallons,” according to NPR.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said it is time to force the city’s more than 3.7 million residents to reduce their water usage by imposing fines.

“We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them,” de Lille said to reporters.

While city officials blame residents for not adhering to previously stated water restrictions, experts say the city planners are to blame for not updating the infrastructure as population grew. Cape Town has six dams, which are all sourced by rainfall.

“Not enough dams have been built over the time that the population has grown and infrastructure has remained the same and that’s why the city now finds itself in the position that it’s in,” Fihlani said.

The dams’ water levels have dropped from 77 percent in Sept. 2015 to 15.2 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times.

When “Day Zero” arrives, residents of Cape Town will be forced to wait in line at one of 200 distribution centers to receive 6.5 gallons of drinking water per person per day. These restrictions follow the guidelines set by the World Health Organization for minimum water needed in an emergency.

Water shortage has become a daily struggle for both tourists and residents of Cape Town. And officials say a true nightmare is upon them.

“Day Zero is the day that almost all of the taps in the city will be turned off and we will have to queue for water,” the city council said.


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.