Cape Town will in the next one month, or so be the first City in the world to run out of water!

What will happen after that is not known but the remaining dam is only 12 per cent full with no guarantee that it will rain before then.

If you thought that Nairobi was facing a crisis, Cape Town is walking straight into what residents are calling Day Zero.

Cape Town has had three years of severe drought leaving the  nearly 4 million people with no alternative. “Day Zero”—the day city officials estimate the water system will be unable to provide drinking water for the taps—is less than two months away, and substantial rains are not expected before then.

“The city managers have imposed a series of increasingly severe water-use restrictions to cut demand and are working to find emergency sources of supply, but it is difficult to see how a cutoff can be avoided,” a south African paper wrote.

Some years back, the authorities had planned to drill seven boreholes into a massive underground trove of liquid treasure, the Table Mountain Group aquifer, estimated to contain 100,000 cubic kilometres of water. But this was not done.

Already people are queuing to fetch water – something unseen in the history of Cape Town.

Although the dam is 12 per cent full, the available pumping equipment is unable to extract the last 10 per cent of water – meaning that only 2 per cent of the water is available at the moment unless new pumping equipment is installed.

This is the first time the winter rains have failed so spectacularly for three successive years. The 2005 crisis was precipitated by three years of poor winter rainfall, but collectively they were only 25 per cent below average. For the past three winters, they have fallen short by 55 per cent.

“Cape Town is not going to be the only city on this continent that’s going to suffer significant water shortage,” Jean-Pierre Labuschagne, an infrastructure expert with Deloitte, said at the launch of its Africa Construction Trends report.

Cities such as Kenya’s Nairobi and Ghana’s Accra have suffered recurrent water shortages for years as reservoirs fall to critical levels in the dry season. Water shortages in these cities threaten the lives of millions in places such as Kibera in Nairobi – one of Africa’s largest slums – where an outbreak of sanitary diseases such as cholera and typhoid could be catastrophic.

“Nairobi’s water system was planned for a population of about half a million people, but it now has more than four million people,” said John Ponsonby, Deloitte’s associate director of infrastructure. “Part of the problem with water is you need to think many years in advance.


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