Global Water News

Taps will soon run dry for four million Cape Town residents

January 31, 2018

We think we know what a water crisis looks like. We’ve all seen pictures of people walking miles with plastic containers to gather fresh water from a distant well or other water source.

But these have generally been in smaller communities or towns that may never have had a modern water infrastructure.

Now the world is facing a new type of water crisis on a massive scale. Cape Town, South Africa, a sophisticated metropolitan area of four million, is experiencing the worst drought in a century and reservoirs are running dry. Water to households may be cut off as soon as April 12, 2018 – “Day Zero”.

Currently, all residents are being asked to restrict use to 50 liters per day per person.

South Africa’s WaterWise notes a typical shower uses 15 liters per minute, while a standard toilet consumes 15 liters per flush. Already prominent politicians are trying to set an example by showering just every three days.

But even with those adjustments, it’s likely not enough to avoid Day Zero – the day the taps run dry.

Water is the new gold

A local brewery that has a natural spring on its premises has installed five taps to allow locals to fill up plastic containers up to 25 liters at a time. Initially the taps were open 24 hours a day, but those hours have been cut back to 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with security guards standing by to enforce the allocations. Line-ups are hours long.

Cape Town residents are buying expensive bottled water in an effort to meet their daily needs for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

In a city that is famous for its beaches, water has become the new gold.

What major city will face the next water crisis?

There is no denying that weather patterns around the world are changing. Cities can no longer depend on predictable amounts of rainfall every year to fill their reservoirs. Rivers and lakes that feed reservoirs are running dry. It will only be a matter of time before the next major city declares a water crisis.

Where will it be? Asia? Europe? North America?