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Cape Town Water Crisis

Back in 2018, the people of Cape Town were looking at a day when no water would flow to their taps. The government of Cape Town called this water Armageddon, "Day Zero". Now the question that arises here is, “How did one of Africa’s most prosperous and economically beneficial city, become one of the first major cities in the world that could completely run out of water. To answer this question we need to understand, why such a crisis could have occurred in the first place.

Cape Town being a Major city, always had a major exponential increase in their population, hence creating a larger demand for potable water. This played a huge role in the water crisis. By 2007, the department of water and sanitation issued a warning about potential shortages in the city’s water supply. Following the heavy monsoon rains of 2014, Cape Town’s dams were at a level of 71.9% but in just a year, the water levels decreased to only 50%. On January 1st of 2016, the municipal government decided to declare level 2 water restrictions in Cape Town, and by November 1st of the same year, imposed level 3 water restrictions.

Cape Town started to prepare for an impending Doomsday where desalination plants(industrial bodies that convert salty sea and ocean water into fresh potable water). By the end of the summer season, in May 2017, the dams had less than 10% of the water in it. Cape own had suffered a major drought and its residents and industries, and businesses took an even massive hit. On June 1st, 2017. Level 4 water restrictions were imposed, granting each access to 100L of municipal water everyday but things went the downtrodden road of disparity and by September 3rd of the same year, Cape Town’s government ordered Level 5 water restrictions, limiting each person to 50L of municipal water per day.

To put this into perspective, the average person uses around 40L of water in a 5-minute shower. Hence 50L of water per person entailed the individual to use the water only when necessary. The government declared A ‘Day Zero’ on April 1st, 2018. Once Day Zero would be crossed, 140 water collection stations would be set up in different areas of the city and residents were to get their municipal water from there with each person’s daily water ration limited to only 25L of water.

But then through a turn of events, the people became more vigilant about the water crisis in their city. Activism spread the message of Day Zero and how it could spell the doom for many of the necessitous communities of Cape Town and lo, they decreased the yearly water usage down to 511 million liters of water. Day Zero was now scheduled for April 16th, and then it rained.

Cape Town’s dams slightly refilled, ending a 3-year drought. This fortunate event led to the delay of Day Zero from April to June to July of 2018, and finally postponed indefinitely. Although the tide turned for the people of Cape Town, Level 6 water restrictions had been imposed and then lifted in 2019. Presently, no water restrictions are imposed on the citizens of Cape Town but a Day Zero may not be an idea of one's mind but a reality anytime soon. It does not necessarily have to be Cape Town, but the tide could turn upon any city in the world, leading to their Day Zero.

~Amey Parekh


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