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News > Science and Tech

Cape Town Could Run Out of Water in Less Than 100 Days

  • Severe climate conditions has adversely affected the dams.

    Severe climate conditions has adversely affected the dams. | Photo: Reuters FILE

Published 17 January 2018

The dam levels are currently at 30 percent forcing authorities to cap water usage to 87 liters per day for each person.

Cape Town, South Africa is fast approaching “Day Zero.” The city is about to run out of water in less than 100 days, multiple reports have stated.

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The southern town could be the first city in the world to go dry. On “Day Zero” – April 21 – the capacity of the city's dams will drop below 13.5 percent. This impending crisis has caused officials to impose “level six” restrictions on approximately 3.7 million people.

The dam levels are currently at 30 percent forcing authorities to cap water usage to 87 liters per day for each person. But, the city's Mayor, Patricia de Lille, assured that programs – using non-surface water sources and techniques – have been implemented to increase the capacities of the dams.

"The city is going out of its way and working beyond its mandate to bring additional water online from various sources," she told Al Jazeera.

"We implemented water restrictions long before we were required to do so by the National Department and had it not been for our... demand management and conservation plan, the city would probably have run out of water by now."

The South African capital has been experiencing a three-year-long drought.

According to the Al Jazeera report, resident Sandra Dickson – who has been living in the city for the past 24 years – expressed despair over the looming predicament.

“We're doing all sorts of things," Dickson said. "We catch water from our showers in buckets, and throw it into our toilets. People are even catching water off their roofs.”

The geographic location of Cape Town had made it a successful natural catchment area to fill the dams when they were constructed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

However, severe climate conditions has adversely affected the dams. “It is raining, but not sufficiently to fill up our dams,” Kevin Winter, a senior lecturer in environmental science at the University of Cape Town, explained.

“As a winter rainfall region, we would [traditionally] expect rainfall to start somewhere around April, but that's no longer the case, it comes a whole lot later at the end of June, or in early July if we are lucky.”

Winter said the environmental conditions had forced “new decision-making” to happen.

“We are experiencing a rapid change in our weather patterns which is increasingly evident of a climate change … There's been a very definite, sharp decline in rainfall levels in recent years,” he said.

Bridgetti Lim Bandi, founder of the website capetownwatercrisis.com added: "We don't have a traditional Cape Town winter anymore. It's not something new, although the City of Cape Town seems to be passing it as such.”

“Ninety-eight percent of Cape Town's water supply has come from surface water, and we haven't [historically] explored a range of other water alternatives," said Winter.

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