Cape Town in Crisis

Cape Town in Crisis

Cape Town is facing the largest crisis to hit a modern city since 9/11 and World War II.  The disaster is not coming from without of South Africa, however; It is coming from within.

A city in which ostriches and penguins run free within the city limits, where tourists from the world over go to take in the stunning scenery and beaches, and ground zero for the end of Apartheid being home to Robben Island and the South African Parliament, is close to running out of water.  The Western Cape Province has been in a drought since 2015, however, nobody expected South Africa's second largest city to run out of water so soon.

Residents have been asked to limit their usage to 13 gallons per person per day, a feat that is seems near impossible for those accustomed to Western quality water on tap as Cape Town has had for decades.  This limit has so far helped push off "Zero Day" from mid April to June the 4th of this year.

The City of Cape Town is trying as quickly as possible to complete large scale water projects like a desalination plant, as the city is surrounded by ocean on three sides.  However, these efforts have been called too little, too late for a city which has had a death spiral of lowering levels in its largest dam, the Theewaterskloof Dam, which now sits at only 13% capacity.

In 2014, the city won a prize from C40, a collection of cities "devoted to fighting climate change worldwide" for its "smart usage of water." It has also won multiple "green city" awards from international organizations for similar reasons.

However, with the drought hitting the city the next year and with no alternative water sources for the city at the time, city leaders and national leaders both largely ignored the problem until the levels were at close to current crisis levels.  With a rush to try and push back Zero Day and even stop it from happening entirely, the City has put out a website keeping updated levels of water usage, levels, and tips on how to save water.

Water is the elixir of life and is necessary to have a functioning city.  Without water, the city will fall into chaos until the taps can come back on and police will have to be deployed to maintain order in the city to prevent rioting and destruction of the historical areas of the city.

UPDATE 3/8/18: Day Zero has been pushed back to late August.  This could lead to the city avoiding the water crisis.

Questions remain however how this issue will affect South Africa going forward, especially with questions about farmland ownership being renewed in the country.

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