Cape Town: Running Out of Time and Water


Around the end of May and the beginning of June, Cape Town will run out of water, leaving about 4 million people with no consumable water at hand (Courtesy of Pixabay).

Little did the public expect to see in the latest headlines that the major city of Cape Town in South Africa will eminently be without water. The announced day for which water will run out was originally mid-April, but it has now been moved to the end of May and the beginning of June. The scarcity of water has progressively grown in the region, and authorities and civilians are all very concerned for the uncertain future.

“Water levels at the dams that supply Cape Town fell further this week. Data showed on Wednesday the latest signs of a deepening crisis that could soon see people forced to queue for water rations. Blame shifting, fault finding, and panic [all] abound, but [the] political finger pointing is rife. Dead fish lie in cracked mud in dry [reservoirs] and dam beds. Birdlife is dying, for they can find no water. Cattle are dying of thirst, and agriculture has been hit hard. The ramifications of this will become evident over time,” says current Cape Town resident Brenda Sudano.

The problem didn’t occur overnight, but it did develop at a rapid pace. Typically, Cape Town has a recorded rainfall of 20 inches per year, but rainfall diminished from fifteen inches in 2015 all the way down to eight inches in 2017.

“Water shortage is a very serious problem; I mean, it’s a source of life, after all. Specifically, in Cape Town, people are affected by this social injustice; they are getting sick because of water shortages in their bodies. Others have grown crops, which now are getting affected because of [the] shortage of water,” says Thobani Gumede from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

The conditions in which many residents of Cape Town have had to suffer will last until the rainfall or the dams can be restored to regular amounts. Alarmingly, the reservoirs have been cut down to the worrying number of 26%. It is inconceivable that the reservoirs of the city were filled completely about four years ago.

“Cape Town is scheduled to be the first city in the world to run out of water. FFS – Day Zero is identified as 16 April 2018, at which point city authorities have said residents will have to queue for water. For the last year, we have been forced not to [take baths], take 2 [minute] showers, but not daily, and any increase over the allotted [water] amount per body levies a huge fine when your water meter is read,” says Sudano.

Even people outside of Cape Town may be taken aback when they discover the interesting subliminal political message of this horrible forecast.

“Attitudes towards the water issue are strongly influenced by race…in very simplified terms, whites see it as a crisis, for which the government is partly to blame, while blacks are saying this is only being seen as a crisis because whites are affected. For blacks, there has never been enough water,” says Dr. Sabine Marschall from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

In other words, many families in third-world countries with higher black populations have to deal with the reality of non-consumable running water. These situations, however, may not get constant media coverage like the one that may affect a major city like Cape Town, which has a higher white population of 15.7%. Nevertheless, the water shortage is significant because it affects many people in one city, regardless of race.

“South Africa has [a] terrible problem with people that cannot work and consume resources. Anything that goes wrong is usually political. They have tons of natural resources and local coal, but people that are greedy and biased hoard most of it. Plus, they have the only nuclear reactor in Africa and can engineer a huge desalination program to provide tons of water…Lastly, they always cause [a] crisis to get money from Europe…desperation leads to money. Someone will sell them shipping containers of water from Latin America,” says Craig Kargol, a recurring South Africa traveler.

In fact, there is a push for a new way to manage pipes that leak almost 80% of water in developing countries. Technological advancements, such as the ones companies like WaterAid are testing, offer hope for the future of countries with tendencies of low rainfall and drought conditions like Cape Town.

“The government should have run campaigns teaching people about the importance of water, but now that the damage has been done, [the] government should try and help the Cape Town community in providing water tanks and ground tanks. Windpumps are also important in reducing damages made by water shortage,” says Gumede.

The Democratic Alliance, or DA, and the local government plan to get water running into Cape Town as soon as possible. They are counting on efforts from facilities and aquifers to obtain a reasonable amount of water to send to the city. However, if this does not work, they can hold the national government responsible for providing the city with water. There are some efforts to make the Capetonians use only fifty liters of water a day, which would further push back the day that water will run out. Also, Day Zero is now predicted to be later than April because of a harvest rationing, which is a shimmer of hope for the DA and all of Cape Town.

“I believe that the best way to help these people overcome this obstacle is [for the world] to unite together and help them. We could donate gallons and gallons of water and send a team over there to try and figure out a solution. At the end of the day, we can all put aside our differences to help those around us in need,” shares junior Emily Marshall.