NAIROBI — Cape Town, South Africa, once feared to be the first major city in the world to run out of water, has most likely avoided the ominous "Day Zero" this year, the government announced Wednesday.
City officials now estimate Day Zero will take place Aug. 27, but because “this date falls deep within the normal rainfall period, it is no longer appropriate to project the date without any consideration of rainfall.”
Cape Town Executive Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson was quick to emphasize the importance of continued water conservation for residents in order to prevent a similar situation in 2019.
“While we are feeling more confident of avoiding Day Zero this year, we cannot predict the volume of rainfall still to come,” Neilson said. “If winter rainfall this year is as low as last year, or even lower, we are still in danger of reaching Day Zero early next year.”
The city once projected Day Zero’s arrival as early as March, prompting officials to establish increasingly restrictive water consumption rules. On Feb. 1, the government issued a mandate that capped an individual's daily water usage at 13 gallons per day. People significantly altered their lifestyles as a result by taking fewer showers, skipping toilet flushes, and repurposing lightly soiled water. Waiting in winding lines to fill jugs at water distribution stations became a daily routine for many Capetonians.
Mmusi Maimane, leader of South Africa’s main opposition party Democratic Alliance, said during a press conference Wednesday that the city’s water consumption currently fluctuates between 510 and 520 million liters per day, less than half of the amount Capetonians normally use.
“It’s far short of what we are accustomed to in the city of Cape Town, but I think it’s admirable for people who have put in efforts,” he said. “Ordinarily, the city would use 1.2 billion liters of water per day.”
Urban residents were also aided by those living in rural areas of the Western Cape province as farmers. Once people in the agricultural sector used up their allotted amount of water, it freed up more for city residents, the mayor said in February.
Scientists have said that Cape Town’s Day Zero scare is the result of a three-year drought that nearly dried up the city’s municipal dams, and the rainfall that did come wasn’t enough to refill them, an event they connect to climate change.