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
Climate
Deep-sea corals may not be flashy, but they deserve a second look. Oceana

Ignoring Deep-Sea Corals Is Risky for the Oceans, and for Us

By Nathan Johnson

The deep sea might be cold and dark, but it's not barren. Down here, an incredible diversity of corals shelters young fish like grouper, snapper and rockfish. Sharks, rays and other species live and feed here their whole lives.

Brightly colored coral gardens, far beyond the reach of the sun's rays, don't just nurture deep-sea life. They also help advance medical research and understand climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

Green Groups Balk at England’s Plan to Fast Track Fracking

Government ministers published proposals Thursday that would speed the development of fracking in England, igniting opposition from environmental groups and local communities, The Independent reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Before Royal Wedding Sermon, Rev. Curry Stood With Standing Rock Pipeline Opponents

Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered a passionate wedding sermon to royal newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, also gave a powerful message about two years ago to Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

On Sept. 24, 2016 at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the reverend offered the Episcopal Church's solidarity with the water protectors, noting that, "Water is a gift of the Creator. We must protect it. We must conserve it. We must care for it."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Coral bleaching like this (in the Great Barrier Reef) is killing the largest reef in Japan. Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0

Only 1% of Japan’s Largest Reef Still Healthy After Historic Bleaching Catastrophe

In a sobering reminder of the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, a survey by the Japanese government found that barely more than one percent of the coral in the country's largest coral reef is healthy, AFP reported Friday.

The reef, located in the Sekisei Lagoon near Okinawa, has suffered mass coral bleaching events due to rising sea temperatures in 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

Train Carrying 250,000 Liters of Fuel Derails on Kenyan Coast

A cargo train carrying 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of super petroleum, or unleaded gasoline, derailed off its tracks after taking a sharp turn along Kenya's eastern coast, forcing the closure of a major highway over the weekend, according to local reports.

The accident occurred early Sunday in Kibarani in Mombasa County, and prompted authorities to completely close off Makupa Causeway, the main link between the mainland and Mombasa Island, fearing a fire would break out after spillage of the highly flammable liquid, The Star, Kenya reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The farm bill's historic conservation provisions are important for preserving grassland biodiversity, like this black-footed ferret and prairie dog. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0

Farm Bill Harmful to Endangered Species and Conservation Fails in House

A farm bill with dangerous consequences for endangered species and conservation efforts failed to pass the House on Friday, The Guardian reported.

The 2018 version of the major agricultural bill was criticized by environmental groups because it would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve new pesticides without assessing their impact on wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bill would also have cut funding for land conservation programs by $800 million over the next ten years.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Pixabay

Controversial Kangaroo Cull Underway in Canberra

By Stephanie Koorey

May is late autumn in the southern hemisphere, and as we creep closer to winter, Canberra, Australia's capital city, is carrying out its annual, and controversial, kangaroo cull. With some pride, the city is known as the "bush capital" due to its wide corridors of native grasslands and gumtree and casurina tree woodlands, and an abundance of accompanying wildlife. As the city sprawls, it is displacing native habitats. At the same time, suburban lawns and sports ovals offer appealing alternative spaces for some animals, particularly our largest and most mobile grazing species, the eastern grey kangaroo. Due in part to the near disappearance of the kangaroo's main natural predator, the dingo or wild dog, and declines in traditional Indigenous hunting, kangaroo populations have exploded over recent decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
pxhere

Opinion: The 2018 Farm Bill Battle Lines Have Been Drawn: Here’s What You Can Do

Last week, the Republican-drafted Farm Bill, called the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), failed spectacularly on the House floor when Republicans tried to leverage the farm bill to placate conservatives' agenda on immigration. Nevertheless, H.R. 2, which generally benefits large commodity producers while compromising long-term food security, provides a helpful view into where the policy battles are being fought on the road to passage.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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