On the Edge of Chaos

Written by Jack Oberg, ESLLC 2017-2018

Cape Town, South Africa is a city on the southern tip of the continent of Africa. Almost 4 million people call cape town home, and they are all about to run out of water. South Africa has been teetering on the edge of drought for years, and in 2015 plunged into full on drought. A lack of rain has caused dry conditions to progressively worsen since then. The city is in crisis mode.

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Cape Town’s decline into drought

The city has mandated that it will shut off the municipal water once the water supply reservoirs fall to 13.5%. The date that the water shuts off has been coined ‘day zero’, current projections place day zero on July 9, 2018. This might not seem like such a big deal at first, but almost 4 million people running out of water on the same day will lead to complete chaos.

The government has imposed level 6 water restrictions on February 1, 2018. Tap water is rationed to 50 liters of water per person, per day, regardless of where they are. 50 liters is roughly 13 gallons of water, meaning that if you took a 5-minute shower in the morning, you would have no more water for the rest of the day. In order to avoid day zero, residents must reuse their grey water, showering in buckets, then using that water to flush toilets and water plants.

Conditions in Cape Town show how any city would be forced to react to a severe drought. I think many of us take advantage of the abundance of freshwater that we have access to. A drought like the one Cape Town is experiencing would be a major shock, forcing us to severely alter our day to day lives. As we watch Cape Town come closer to day zero, it is important that we take time to appreciate the water that we have, and be more conscious of the water that we waste.




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