Why Cape Town’s water could run out in April

Feb 01, 2018

THE people of Cape Town have spent recent years praying for rain. It has not come often enough. Lawns have faded to brown and swimming pools have gone dry. The dams that hold the South African city’s water supply are now at just 26% of capacity. Officials warn of the likelihood of a Day Zero, when the level at the dams will drop below 13.5% and the city’s water supply will have to be turned off. (The 13.5% level is set by the city, which notes that it may be hard to extract any water at all if it falls below 10%.) Unless things change, Day Zero is due to fall on April 16th, though earlier estimations suggested both April 12th and April 21st. It will make Cape Town the world’s first big city to run dry. Residents will have to queue to get water rations—25 litres per person per day—from collection points under armed guard. Already water pressure from the taps has been throttled. Residents have grown used to short showers, and loos are seldom flushed. Hotels have removed bathtub plugs from rooms. How did this happen?

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