Cape Town's Water Conservation Efforts Are Keeping 'Day Zero' at Bay

Photo: AP

Cape Town is running out of water. This has been true for the last three years since a drought—which was declared a national disaster last week—hit the city of four million. Now, the countdown to “Day Zero,” as officials are calling the day water will shut off citywide, has been extended to July 9.

This good news comes a week after the date was pushed to June. Day Zero was first was set to happen in April and subsequently moved to May. The date keeps moving further and further away as the city receives rain and residents work hard to conserve water. Right now, officials are requiring people use roughly 13 gallons of water a day. The more water a family uses, the more they will have to pay in taxes and fines.

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The ultimate goal is to bring citywide water use down to 119 million gallons a day. Cape Town isn’t quite there yet, but residents appear to be taking these warnings seriously given the shifting date of Day Zero.

If and when Day Zero finally comes—that is when dam levels reach 13.5 percent, which is about 10 percentage points away—the city will set up 200 water collection sites where the public can pick up water free of charge. Each point should be able to serve 20,000 people. At that point, every person will receive a little less than seven gallons a day.

That’s about half of what people are receiving now—and less than a tenth of the average daily water use here in the U.S. That’s wild. Water is a necessary resource to survive, and city officials are reasonably worried about the chaos that will ensue if Day Zero becomes a reality.

Even the second-largest city in South Africa isn’t safe from extreme climate disasters like drought (is anywhere, really?). Climate change is set to only make things worse.

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About the author

Yessenia Funes

I mostly write about how environmental policy and climate change intersect with race and class though I occasionally write about animals, science, and art, too. We all need an escape, right?

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