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Cape Town: when the population acts to reduce water consumption and avoid “Day Zero”

The world water crisis is clearly illustrated by the example of South Africa and the Cape region, with the phenomenon of Day Zero, much in the news since mid-February. It stands for the day when the municipality will have to cut off the public water supply and the population will be obliged to go to 200 water supply points, with water being rationed to 25 litres a day per person.

With three dry seasons, the city is facing its most severe drought in a century. Its water reserves are at their lowest level, leading the South African government to decree a state of natural disaster on 13 February.

Since then, the strong mobilisation of the Cape’s 4 million inhabitants to reduce their consumption and the beginning of the rainy season, has led to the deadline being postponed until 9 July and, perhaps, preventing the taps from running dry.

But this relief is short-lived. Not far away, in Mozambique, although reserves are at their lowest, a quarter of the city of Maputo, with a population of four million, has been deprived of drinking water, since the government has decided to give priority to farmers and electricity production. The water crisis now affects urban centres, medium-sized towns and rural areas. Climate change will aggravate the aridity of the world’s regions which already suffer from shortages, further drying soils, accelerating the evaporation of plants and hindering the absorption of torrential rains that runoff too soon towards the ocean. Combined with demographic pressure, climatic phenomena will aggravate disparities in access to water.

Climate change will oblige populations to change their practices and relations with water resources and pubic authorities must conceive the management and distribution of water as a function of different uses differently.

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