Cape Town is known around the world not only for its gorgeous vistas and tourist attractions but as an investment opportunity and booming cultural center. Below in this article, we will cover the What Happened to the Water Supply in Cape Town.
However, many people are deterred from visiting Cape Town even now because of the water crisis in mid-2017, in which Cape Town’s water supply continued to drop until it became evident that drastic measures would have to be taken to save the city.
This is when the city leadership began its countdown to “Day Zero,” at which point the city’s water supply would have to become government-managed in order to conserve the remaining stores. Day Zero was postponed time and again until early 2018, when the city of Cape Town’s government officials proclaimed it to be postponed indefinitely.
What happened to Cape Town’s water supply is a cautionary tale that many unstable or developing regions can learn from. How the city, its tourists, government leadership, and industry professionals saved the city from disaster is a lesson for any city hoping to become more environmentally conscious in the modern age.
Causes of the Crisis
The Climate System Analysis Group at the University of Cape Town did a relevant and thorough study that helps illustrate what happened to the water supply in Cape Town.
As they observed, around 2015 the city’s dam storage reserves hit a massive low due to the lack of rainfall that year. At the same time, the city’s water usage was at an all-time high, owing in part to the city’s population growing exponentially over the previous decade.
The dam storage couldn’t keep up with the added pressure of the population growth. The dry spell was the last straw that sent Cape Town spiraling toward “Day Zero.”
A new dam had been constructed within this time period, but it had only increased the city’s water stores by 15%, compared to the 50% increase in population. Multiple factors converged on an already unstable, arid climate to create this crisis.
Foreseeing the end of the city’s water supply, Cape Town officials began counting down to Day Zero in late 2017. It was designated as the day that the water supply would dip below 13.5% of the reserve capacity, signaling the emergency procedures to go into effect.
These were to include water rations enforced by the city and daily water queues after the public and private water mains were turned off. This would have been a state of emergency unheard of in any modern developed city.
However, as 2017 continued, the city’s water usage began dropping. Educational and conservational efforts throughout the city slowed the aquifers’ depletion rate. The city council of Cape Town postponed Day Zero indefinitely in early 2018. How did this happen?
A Resilient City
By the end of 2017, Cape Town’s water usage had dropped to 50% thanks to the diligence of its officials, civilians, leaders, and tourists. By restricting their showers and recreation and carefully managing the city’s drainage system, they managed to cancel Day Zero.
Now, Cape Town is a model for progressive water distribution reform. The Cape Water Strategy has been put in place with the goal of being more environmentally conscious, to stay more diligent of the city’s water reserves and the effects of weather and population on the rate of their depletion.
Maintaining the city’s aquifers, rebuilding the city’s drainage infrastructure, and better controlling the storm drains and waterways are the focus of the water strategy.
Thanks to these efforts, the city’s main dams now contain about 70% of their capacity, according to the city’s website. Concerted conservation efforts are keeping those levels either steady or growing. There is now no sign at all that Cape Town was ever in any danger to begin with.
Cape Town proved its resourcefulness and resilience by facing and overcoming the impending water crisis of 2017. Its conscientious civilians, council members, and industry leaders took the proper action to curb water usage in time and postpone Day Zero indefinitely.
Now, Cape Town is more progressive than ever, with new infrastructure going up to improve its water usage efficiency and new additions to their waterways and aquifers improving the city’s relationship with its environment.
If the city was a destination worthy of travel and investment before, it is doubly so now. It proved that environmental cognizance can come at short notice by just a few dedicated people working together to save their city. Cape Town’s water supply problem and solution stands as a model for us all in conservation, city management, and civic duty.