News Feature | January 23, 2018

Cape Town May Be First Major City To Run Out Of Water

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga, Associate Editor, Water Online

cape town.reg

Though this time of year typically means an abundance of water supplies throughout the U.S., a major foreign city is having to contend with the possibility that it will run out of water entirely.

“After three years of unprecedented drought, the South African city of Cape Town has less than 90 days worth of water in its reservoirs, putting it on track to be the first major city in the world to run out of water,” reported Time. “Unless residents drastically cut down on daily use, warns Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille, taps in the seaside metropolis of four million will soon run dry.”

The city predicts that, based on current supplies and water use, it will run out of water on April 22. This upcoming “day zero,” as officials are calling it, is forthcoming despite already tight restrictions on water use for residents.

“Cape Town’s four million residents are now only allowed 23 gallons of water per day,” per CBS News. “Next month that goes down to 13 gallons. Compare that to the average American who uses around 100 gallons daily. Thirteen gallons doesn’t allow for much — a 90-second shower, a quick toilet flush, basic dishwashing, weekly laundry, and a large bottle of drinking water.”

Meanwhile, local farmers have only been able to plant a fraction of what they normally would. And this would decrease even more, potentially down to nothing, if taps are turned off entirely.

Beyond restricting water use, there seem to be few solutions in sight. Adjacent to the ocean as it is, Cape Town has explored desalination options. But it’s doubtful that this will solve the problem in time.

“Now the city is playing catch up, hastily (and expensively) installing desalination plants and looking into groundwater extraction,” Time reported. “But it’s unlikely any of those systems will be brought online before Day Zero, or even before the rainy season is due to start up again in May (if indeed it does).”

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Source Water Scarcity Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Downtown Cape Town," David Stanley © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/