Drought-Stricken Cape Town Pushes ‘Day Zero’ To April 16

Even after stringent restrictions on water usage were implemented, the city is being told to cut back or face losing its water supply in just a few months.

UPDATE: While the city is still struggling as the water supplies dwindle, officials from Cape Town, South Africa, have pushed back “Day Zero” from April 12 to 16, while cutting the daily water usage limit from 23 to 13 gallons.

By moving the date forward, the city gives the 4 million people scrambling to ration the last remaining supply a glimpse of hope. However, they remain far from being able to use water freely unless a miracle takes place.

Still, Mmusi Maimane, South Africa’s Democratic Alliance party leader, said he is hopeful.

“Hearing the message that says we can defeat Day Zero, more people have come onboard, and I’m glad to announce that we’ve started to move Day Zero,” he said on Tuesday. “We anticipate that with the plan working, we can move it further along.”

One of the reasons for the optimism comes from a farming community southeast of Cape Town. With their help and the help of residents who slashed their water usage from 153 million gallons per day to 143 million gallons, they now have a supply of 18 million gallons secure in the Palmiet-Kogelberg dam, which is still full.

Despite this progress, many residents are slacking and are not participating, the Defeat Day Zero campaign reported on Twitter. It's a reality that forced Cape Town to act by reprimanding wasteful locals.

As of now, the dams are 25.9 percent full, but once they reach the 13.5 percent level, the city will shut off all taps. Then, only 6.6 gallons of water will be made available per day per resident. Since people will have to line up to collect their allotted amount of water, many are afraid that older and sickly residents will be the first to suffer.

Local blogger Amanda Stergianos said she's healthy and young, but carrying over 6 gallons alone is hard enough for her. She can’t imagine how others will manage.

“I am strong and healthy, but also a single parent. Carrying 25 liters [about 6.6 gallons] of water is nearly impossible for me for more than five meters without setting it down — let alone for long walks from the springs to the cars,” she explained.

With stores running out of bottled water and surrounding areas also seeing a significant drop in water levels, one official in Johannesburg, the country’s largest city, has already asked residents to stop sending their bottles of water to Cape Town as they are also readying to enter a critical moment.  

After imposing strict water restrictions on its residents, Cape Town may still lose its water supply within the next 90 days, becoming the first major city in the world to lose water access.

Reports indicate this is the worst drought to have hit South Africa's No. 2 city and claim that Cape Town’s nearly 4 million inhabitants will no longer have access to piped water if consumption is not reduced.

Unfortunately, residents are already on edge, with legal restrictions keeping them from using more than 13 gallons per day. Even farmers have been told to cut back on irrigation, while other companies that rely on water, such as car washing firms and hotels, have had to also ration.

As the dam levels continue to drop drastically, officials have been forced to set the “day zero” as April 12, forcing locals to scramble for makeshift solutions.

Meteorologist Bob Henson says that some of the options South Africans have include drilling deep wells to access groundwater supplies and building portable desalination plants, which could help locals by turning salt water into fresh water.

The lack of access to water could end up hurting the city’s tourism industry, which is a major source of income to locals.

Restaurant managers, such as Nikita Elliott, had to adapt to ensure they stay open.

According to The Guardian, Elliott’s restaurant, Cape to Cuba, stopped serving tap water and is asking customers to only flush solids while using the restrooms. All dishes in the restaurant are also being washed by hand.

“A lot of business owners and regular citizens have taken this into their own hands and are doing what they can,” Elliott said.

Still, the severe drought impacting Cape Town residents now is not an anomaly, as experts say this is the city’s new normal. It’s time for both authorities and locals to work together to find long-term solutions for the problems at hand.

Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters/Mike Hutchings

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