1.01.2018

Drought threatens metropolis – Cape Town runs dry

(Translated via Google Translate from a German newspage “ZDF heute” – so please excuse some funny glitches)

Drought threatens metropolis – Cape Town runs dry

Date: 30.12.2017 08:22

 

Swimming pools have closed, nurseries and car washes had to close: in Cape Town, the water is scarce. Now the citizens tremble before the “zero hour”.

Cape Town is going out of water due to the worst drought since centuries. If it does not rain soon, end of April threatens to be the “zero hour”, in which the city in South Africa has to turn off the water. Then the approximately 4.5 million inhabitants would have to collect their water under the supervision of the military and police at 200 distribution points. Every day, in one of Africa’s most developed cities, there would be only 25 liters of water per person – the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for maintaining good health and hygiene.

 

Tourists region is sitting on the dry

We basically have to change our relationship with water.

(Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille)

“We are trying everything to prevent the “zero hour”… but we must fundamentally change our relationship with water,” warns Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. The region attracts around five million tourists every year, including hundreds of thousands of Germans.

But swimming pools have been empty for a long time. Gardens may no longer be watered for months. It has just begun the dry summer time. Rain is expected again in May or June – if at all. For weeks residents have been consuming only 87 liters of water a day on average – and drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning and flushing.

 

From January only 40 liters of water per capita

For comparison: In Germany, more than 120 liters of water are consumed per person per day. But to avert the “hour zero” for Cape Town, the city administration halved the permitted water consumption from 1 January now again from 20,000 liters to 10,500 liters per household. That equates to just over 40 liters per person in a large household. Depending on the sector, commercial consumers have to reduce between 45 and 60 percent. Those who do not comply will have to pay fines in the future. Even now, the reservoirs that supply Cape Town with water are only one-third full. The region was declared a disaster area months ago. “If the water level drops to below 13 percent, we turn the taps off,” threatens de Lille.

 

Water from reservoirs is not enough

It is clear that the water at the dams that supply the city will not suffice until the next rainfall. Only the densely populated poor areas around Cape Town would be excluded from extreme measures, since there the risk of disease outbreaks is too high, de Lille explains. “It is clear that the water at the dams that supply the city will not be sufficient until the next rainfall,” warns Piotr Wolski, a climate researcher from the University of Cape Town. Therefore, the water consumption must be heavily rationed. On an urban website, citizens can follow in real time when the “hour zero” will strike; currently on April 29, 2018. The city currently consumes more than 600 million liters a day, explains the head of the municipal water supply, Barry Wood. Consumption must fall by more than 100 million liters to avert disaster.

 

Researcher: A climate- no planning problem.

According to researchers at the University of Cape Town, the causes of the crisis have more to do with the effects of climate change than with poor urban planning. Cape Town is located in an increasingly dry province, the Western Cape, where the weather has changed dramatically in recent years. In addition, the climate phenomenon El Niño in the region causes extreme drought.Numerous companies dependent on water such as garden centers and car washes have gone bankrupt. Agriculture has also lost millions in this harvest season, says Graham Paulse of the Regional Ministry of Cooperative Governance. The onion harvest has shrunk by half, the fruit harvest is to go back by 20 percent, the wine harvest by five percent, so Paulse. Around 50,000 jobs are said to be threatened due to the drought.Many citizens are trying to make themselves at least partially independent of urban water supply. They install systems for water recycling and dig wells. Rainwater tanks are sold out everywhere. Every day, dozens of people jostle for two natural springs on the outskirts to refill water canisters. Yusuf Manjee, a 68-year-old retiree complains as he fills numerous plastic bottles, “If things get worse, we’ll move away.

Drought tax is discussed

At the same time, the city is trying to improve its water supply through a series of seawater desalination plants, water reclamation and groundwater extraction. Between February and July, a total of 144 million liters of water are to be obtained. Also, in many parts of the city, the water pressure has been reduced to reduce consumption. Starting in February, the city is considering the introduction of a “drought tax”, which requires homeowners a staggered fee depending on their real estate value. In this way de Lille wants to win over the next four years the equivalent of 260 million Euros for the expansion of the water infrastructure.
Mayor de Lille says to save water, she doesn’t shower every day and comes somethimes to the office with greasy hair. But if not more water is saved quickly, the city could still turn into a disaster area with the “zero hour”.

Source: dpa

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