Cape Town set to run out of water

Residents getting water in South Africa

Residents collected water from a communal tap in an informal settlement in Mitchells Plain. PHOTO CREDIT: Joao Silva via The New York Times


The city of Cape Town in South Africa is now set to run out of water within the next 90 days. After three years of drought brought on by climate change and the city’s growing population, the city’s reservoirs are running extremely low. If residents don’t take drastic precautions, Cape Town will become the first major city in the world to run out of water.


The city is telling its residents to limit their water usage to just 23 gallons per person, per day. For comparison, the average American uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water each day. In Cape Town, 23 gallons means keeping showers under 2 minutes, not flushing the toilet unless it is absolutely necessary (“if it’s yellow, let it mellow”), and severely limiting the use of dishwashers and washing machines.


If the city hits “Day Zero,” meaning its reservoirs are at 13.5% capacity, then the city will enact emergency water plans. This involves rationing water and forcing residents to go to one of 200 municipal stations to collect their family’s ration. They can then collect a maximum of 6.6 gallons a day. In this case, armed guards will be standing by to keep the peace and prevent anyone from taking more than their share.


How can we prevent such a water crisis from happening in our communities? What can we do as peacemakers to preserve our environment and ensure that our natural water sources sustain us for generations to come?


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