Day Zero approaches on the city of Cape Town


If you had to estimate how much water you use in a day, what would be your guess? 

In the United States the average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day. Using the United States Geological Survey, I found that I personally use about 91.24 gallons. 

Can you imagine only being able to use 13.21 gallons of water a day? Well that is the reality for the residents of Cape Town, South Africa. Due to a drought that has lasted three years, the city is on the verge of chaos. Other reasons for the water crisis include a growing population of 4 million residents and a rapidly changing climate. 

In 2014, Cape Town’s water levels were considerably full at 87.9 percent, but since then they’ve declined to a level of 24.8 percent. Tourists and residents have been limited to 90 second showers and a one-time-a-day toilet flush. “We are allowed to have showers, though not every day. You literally feel guilty when flushing,” said resident Wayne Ronne to CNN. I personally can’t fathom feeling remorseful for flushing a toilet.

The drought is not only affecting residents’ personal lives, but the city’s economy. Many businesses where the use of water is essential are not able to function normally due to lack of water.  Businesses including tourism, car washes, hair salons and florists are affected the most. 

The bright light at the end of the tunnel is that most of these businesses are adapting to the new water restrictions. For example, car washes are using “grey water,”where instead of using new water for each wash they reuse it, since the chemicals have not been removed in the treatment process. 

However, local authorities disagree with the reuse of water and have fined car washes that continue to use it. How can businesses continue to operate if they are not permitted to adapt to this water crisis? 

 Thankfully, rain fell on Feb. 9, causing jubilant cries of joy throughout the city. Residents hadn’t seen rain since Jan. 22. Many were able to fill buckets with rain water, using it for laundry, showers or their small businesses. 

Unfortunately, officials say they are not sure if the downpour delays “Day Zero,” which is still set for May 11. Cape Town receives more than 99 percent of its water supply from dams that depend on rainfall. 

The city is racing against time to upgrade the water systems that are currently in place, reconstructing desalination and water recycling projects. On “Day Zero” the drought-stricken metropolis will be forced to turn off taps to all homes and many businesses, leaving nearly 4 million people without running water. Each day citizens will then have to visit one of the 200 collection points that are scattered throughout the city to pick up their 6.5-gallon ration. 

Cape Town’s population is terrified for “Day Zero”, but some say that it is avoidable. 

It is possible for citizens to prevent water levels in the dam from dropping so low that the water needs to be entirely cut off. But that would mean that the population must drastically lessen its water usage.

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