â€˜Day Zeroâ€™ approaches, when the cityâ€™s water taps will be turned off in Mid-May
Cape Town, a major international city in South Africa, has been experiencing the worst drought in over a century. Due to the rapidly changing climate and its population of 4 million which is growing quickly, the Theewaterskloof dam, which provides more than half the cityâ€™s water supply, is running out water. In mid-May, Cape Town will probably be the first city in the world where engineers will close the valves to about a million homes (75% of the city), to prevent the remaining water supplies running out before the arrival of the first rains in May. Various measures have been taken by authorities to prevent this, like lowering the water pressure and asking residents to use 50 liters of water per person/day, starting February 1st, but they do not seem enough. With the dam levels currently sitting at 25.5% (â€˜Day Zeroâ€™ will come when it falls to 13.5% of capacity), the consumption should get down to 450 million litres/day, but usage is still 86 million liters above this target.
â€œWeâ€™ve identified four risks: water shortages, sanitation failures, disease outbreaks and anarchy due to competition for scarce resources,â€ says Greg Pillay, head of Cape Townâ€™s disaster operations center. â€œWe had to go back to the drawing board. We were prepared for disruption of supply, but not a no-water scenario. In my 40 years in emergency services, this is the biggest crisis.â€
In place of piped water, the city will establish 200 water collection points within 200 metres of every citizenâ€™s home where it will be given out for free. This way, the legally guaranteed minimum of 25 litres per person per day will be ensured. â€œA bigger concern is to ensure the economy doesnâ€™t collapse. We need to keep business and jobs going â€¦ Clearly, there could be a severe impact. It depends on how long it continuesâ€, says the deputy mayor, Ian Neilson. There were also plans to diversify the water supply with boreholes and desalination plants, but the city is caught unprepared as this infrastructure was not due to operate until after 2020.
Guardian graphic. Source: Bristol Water, Ruapehu District Council (NZ). Satellite photos: ESA/Sentinel 2 Reservoir outlines: NASA/Landsat 8, Guardian analysis
The Theewaterskloof dam
Although being the city's largest reservoir, now one side of the lake is a desert, completely devoid of life. On the other side, by the dam wall, the water is nearly 10 metres deep, but the shoreline is receding at the rate of the 1.2m a week, leaving the bed exposed to the sun. â€œThe change is visible by the week,â€ said Paul Furstenburg, restaurant manager at Theewater sports club. â€œWhen I arrived here four years ago, it was like a seaâ€.
Source: The Guardian