South Africa’s second-biggest city is faced with a deepening water crisis, blamed on a two-decade population boom and several years of drought, forcing citizens of the popular tourist destination to ration their water consumption or face “Day Zero,” when authorities will close off most taps if not enough water is saved.
Officials had forecasted “Day Zero” to fall around April 22, forcing residents to use no more than 87 litres per person, per day. However, with dam levels falling, Cape Town has restricted water usage to 50 litres a day. Even with the tighter restrictions, “Day Zero” was moved up to April 12.
On Tuesday, Mmusi Maimane, whose Democratic Alliance party runs Cape Town, announced that a result of the water restriction, “Day Zero” had been pushed back four days.
“I offer my thanks and congratulations to all residents who have joined in this campaign to Defeat Day Zero with such commitment,” Maimane said in a statement. “Their efforts have shown fruit. We have started to push back Day Zero, and we can defeat it altogether if we keep going.”
Maimane said Cape Town cut consumption last week from 580 million litres a day to 540 million litres, but more still needs to be done.
“We need to aim to cut consumption to 450 million litres a day,” he said. “While I celebrate the progress this week, I call on all residents to support the campaign to Defeat Day Zero by cutting their consumption to below 50 litres per person per day.”
On Sunday, the City of Cape Town announced its disaster plan in the event “Day Zero” happens.
“When our dam levels reach 13. 5 per cent, we will begin to shut down our reticulation system, except to key commercial areas and institutions such as hospitals. Once this happens, residents will be able to access water from collection points across the city,” the city said in a statement. “Each resident will be allocated 25 litres of water a day. There will be separate sections for pedestrian and vehicle access, as well as access for those collecting on behalf of vulnerable groups.”
The city said members of South African National Defence Force and South African Police Service will provide security at the various water collection checkpoints throughout the city.
“Every possible contingency is being considered and we will continuously evaluate and fine-tune these measures in the lead-up to Day Zero, and in the days that follow,” officials said. “The collection of water will only be regulated in order to prevent any one person from collecting far above their daily water allocation. Officials will be onsite to monitor potential abuse, and residents are also encouraged to report any abuse they witness.”
Water levels at dams supplying South Africa’s Cape Town fell further this week down to 24.5 per cent this week from 25.3 per cent the previous week. That’s down nearly 38 per cent from a year ago, Reuters reported.
Maimane announced last week Cape Town had secured an addition 120 million litres a day but the supply would be available until May. However, Maimane said Tuesday the city was able to speed up the supply process and secured more than half of the supply, which will be available early next month.
The City of Cape Town said in the event “Day Zero” occurs, it “will demand a whole of society approach, where we all pull together to get through this.”
–with a file from Katie Dangerfield and Reuters