Quantcast
Climate

Cape Town's 'Day Zero' Looms as Dam Levels Drop

After three years of unprecedented drought, the South African metropolis of Cape Town is at risk of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Dam levels fell to 26 percent capacity on Wednesday, compared to 26.3 percent on Monday and 26.6 percent last week. Once the dams reach 13.5 percent, the municipal water supply shuts off for all but essential services, such as hospitals and key commercial areas.


Persistent warnings of "Day Zero"—when the taps run dry—have forced a new individual water limit of 50 liters a day starting in February. That target could be difficult to fulfill, as only 55 percent of Cape Town's four million residents could meet the previous and much higher limit of 87 liters per day.

The water crisis has raised tensions and sparked a fight this week that resulted in an arrest at the Newland spring, southeast of the city center.

"A physical conflict broke out and a person was arrested by the South African Police Service," said city security chief, councillor Jean-Pierre Smith in a statement.

"Congestion and noise from cars and persons visiting the site at all hours of the day and night is causing many complaints."

The glimmer of good news is that the water restrictions appear to be working. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, who leads the Defeat Day Zero campaign, announced that Day Zero was pushed back four days later than previously expected.

"Thanks to the water-saving efforts of many Cape Town residents, I can confirm that we have begun to push back Day Zero, which is now 16 April 2018," Maimane said.

"Pushing back Day Zero by four days may not seem like a lot, but actually it is a significant victory. It shows that residents are coming together and cutting water consumption," he added.

Still, the fight is far from over and could get worse in a world of rising temperatures due to climate change.

According to the New York Times:

"Cape Town has grown warmer in recent years and a bit drier over the last century, according to Piotr Wolski, a hydrologist at the University of Cape Town who has measured average rainfall from the turn of the 20th century to the present.

"Climate models show that Cape Town is destined to face a drier future, with rains becoming more unpredictable in the coming decades. 'The drier years are expected to be drier than they were, and the wetter years will not be as wet,' Mr. Wolski said."

Greenpeace Africa said it could take four years of good rain before dam levels are restored and is calling on South Africa President Jacob Zuma to declare Western and Eastern Cape Provinces disaster areas immediately.

"Declaring national disaster areas is now the only way to ensure that every government structure can mobilize the necessary resources to respond effectively," the environmental organization said in a petition. "The fact that this has not happened is a catastrophic failure in leadership at a time when South Africans need it most."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular
Old White Truck / Flickr

The Last Straw? EU Official Hints Ban on Single-Use Plastic Across Europe

A top EU official hinted that legislation to cut plastic waste in Europe is coming soon.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, made the comment after Britain's environment minister Michael Gove, a pro-Brexiter, suggested that staying in the EU would make it harder for the UK to create environmental laws such as banning plastic drinking straws.

Keep reading... Show less
Flare from gas well. Ken Doerr / Flickr

Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule

A federal judge reinstated a widely supported methane waste rule that President Trump's administration has repeatedly tried to stop.

Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was "untethered to evidence."

Keep reading... Show less
On Jan. 24, 2017 President Donald Trump signed a memorandum to expedite the Keystone XL permitting process. Twitter | Donald Trump

Inside the Trump Admin's Fight to Keep the Keystone XL Approval Process Secret

By Steve Horn

At a Feb. 21 hearing, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the Trump administration must either fork over documents showing how the U.S. Department of State reversed an earlier decision and ultimately came to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or else provide a substantial legal reason for continuing to withhold them. The federal government has an order to deliver the goods, one way or the other, by March 21.

Keep reading... Show less
Health

New Black Lung Epidemic Emerging in Coal Country

In a study released this month by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), federal researchers identified more than 400 cases of complicated black lung in three clinics in southwestern Virginia between 2013 and 2017—the largest cluster ever reported.

However, the actual number of cases is likely much, much higher as the government analysis relied on self-reporting. An ongoing investigation from NPR has counted nearly 2,000 cases diagnosed since 2010 across Appalachia.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

The Facts About Trump’s Solar Tariffs – Who Gets Hurt? Who Gets Helped?

By John Rogers

The solar-related shoe we've been expecting has finally dropped: President Trump recently announced new taxes on imported solar cells and modules. There's plenty of downside to his decision, in terms of solar progress, momentum and jobs. But will it revive U.S. manufacturing?

Keep reading... Show less

Japan Confirms Oil From the Sanchi Is Washing Up On Its Beaches

By Andy Rowell

The Japanese Coast Guard has confirmed that the oil that is being washed up on islands in the south of the country is "highly likely" to have come from the stricken Iranian tanker, the Sanchi.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Dave Keeling

Is Constant Human Noise Stressing Out Wildlife?

By Jason Daley

A major study earlier this year showed something incredible. Looking at 492 protected areas in the U.S., researchers found that 62 percent of the parks, wilderness areas and green spaces were twice as loud as they should be. About 21 percent were 10 times as loud. Noise isn't just annoying—chronic exposure to traffic, generators and airplanes can lead to negative consequences for wildlife. Researchers like Nathan Kliest are just getting a handle on exactly how all that noise impacts animals. Kliest, formerly of the University of Colorado Boulder and now at SUNY Brockport, recently investigated the impact of chronic noise on birds in the Southwest.

Keep reading... Show less
GMO
Activists campaigning to regulate glyphosate in the European Union. Avaaz / Flickr

Monsanto 'Commands' Civic Group to Turn in All Communications Over Glyphosate

Avaaz, a civic campaigning network that counts roughly 45 million subscribers around the world, has been served with a 168-page subpoena on behalf of agribusiness giant Monsanto.

The document, dated Jan. 26 and sent from New York Supreme Court, "commands" the U.S.-based organization to turn in a decade's worth of internal communications by Friday, Feb. 23.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!