Science & Technology

Cape Town continues to suffer water crisis, creates disaster plans

Cape Town, the capital of South Africa’s Western Cape province, is expected to run out of water by April 12, a day known as Day Zero.

Severe drought, population increase and the African National Congress government’s failure to provide emergency drought aid all contributed to this water crisis.

If the water supply shuts down, Cape Town will be the first major city in a developed country to face such an issue.

Evidence of an impending water crisis was apparent in 2004. Cape Town abandoned plans of creating desalination plants, facilities that convert sea water to drinking water, and tapping groundwater because these plans were too expensive.

Authorities decided to rely solely on rainfall conditions, even though constant rainfall is not guaranteed in South Africa. There was no alternative plan created to increase water supply.

The water crisis can also be traced back to political issues. The national government was responsible for creating water infrastructure and the city was tasked with the allocation of water.

These goals were not achieved when the Democratic Alliance won sovereignty of Cape Town in 2006 and the Western Cape province in 2009. The province blamed the ANC for not constructing and preserving water infrastructure and dispatching drought assistance.

However, while the ANC failed to support water infrastructure, Cape Town failed to acknowledge how population growth affected water demand. Since 1999, Cape Town’s population has doubled.

Eastern and southern Africa both experienced three years of drought. The water scarcity caused havoc, and towns outside of Cape Town had to import water. However, these towns’ issues are nowhere near as urgent as Cape Town’s.

Cape Town’s predicament again stems from rapid population growth and neglect to create substitutes water infrastructure. It was incorrectly concluded that this was a temporary water drought and that the water shortage issue would end when the drought was over.

The consequences are apparent in the dams’ decline of usable water. In September 2015, the six dams had 77 percent capacity of usable water. The current capacity is 15.2 percent.

Day Zero was originally planned for April 21, but was pushed to April 12 due to a 1.4 percent decrease in dam levels.

On April 12, people will wait in line at the city’s 200 water stations.The policy and army will implement a limit of 6.6 gallons per person and will follow specific actions to manage crowds. Evacuations are predicted.

Each resident is currently allowed 23 gallons of water a day. Only 39 percent of residents abide by this requirement.

Once February ends, each resident will be allowed to use 13 gallons of water a day.

Households that exceed water rations must consent to have a water limitation gadget positioned on their pipes.

The city government has also created a controversial online water depletion map, authorizing residents to inspect their neighbors’ water usage based on household bills. The map originally displayed red dots on households with the heaviest water usage.

It was revised, and now green dots pinpoint households that are close to exceeding limits.

The city has prohibited filling pools, washing cars, watering gardens, golf courses or sports fields using water.

Decorative water fountains have stopped working and public pools are empty.

People are limiting their showers to two minutes. Shower, bath and basin water is retrieved so it can be re-used when flushing toilets, watering gardens and
washing cars. Restaurants are using disposable cups and discarding table linen.

Hotels have asked travelers not to use baths. Some residents gather water from mountain streams around Cape Town.

The water crisis may negatively affect tourism. Tourism was responsible for 9 percent of South Africa’s economy in 2017.

Ten million tourists visited Cape Town, a city well-known for its beaches and mountains, in 2017.

Helen Zille, the premier of South Africa’s Western Cape province, asked South African President Jacob Zumba to proclaim this issue a natural disaster. She explained the drought intensified from a peril to an inevitable disaster.

February 13, 2018

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Maya Yegorova


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