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Cape Town in South Africa Will Run Out of Water on April 12, 2018

January 31, 2018
Plain English Version

Cape Town residents are lining up for water.

After years of drought and mismanagement, Cape Town faces a true disaster. The mayor calls April 12, 2018 ‘Day Zero.’

Cape Town will soon run out of water. It will be the first major city on the planet to go dry. About 4 million residents will suffer.

Cape Town plans to cut off the city water supply on April 12.  The city will open 200 water-collection sites. People will pick up their ration of 25 liters (6.6 gallons) a day per person. Lining up for water will become part of Cape Town daily life.

Cape Town worries about security. The national police and military will stand guard at water-collection sites.

Water taps would continue to run in hospitals and schools. Community water taps in poor areas are likely to run to avoid disease. Some central and downtown areas could be exempt from the cut-off. The exemption would be for the sake of tourism and business.

The region has endured several years of drought. Scientists say man-made global warming may be contributing to the drought. Similar droughts could be more common in the future.

The average level of Cape Town’s main water source is about 27 percent. But the final 10 percent is not for use.  That is because mud, weeds, and debris fill the bottom. Some residents are saying that silt in tap water makes it undrinkable. The city says it would have to turn off most taps if the reservoir level falls below 13.5 percent.

There is a lot of blame. Some say the African National Congress party is at fault. As the ruling party, it must deliver water as the law requires. Others say the government should stop people from using too much water. The crisis was bound to become political.

For now, officials advise Cape Town residents to limit their showers to fewer than 90 seconds.  They should use a bucket to collect the runoff from showers to flush the toilets.

The nearby world is responding. Social media has taken up the cause. Trucks come from Cape Town loaded with produce. They return to Cape Town empty. The plan is to load the empty returning trucks with water.

There are new water drop-off points in Cape Town. There is a new “Water 4 Cape Town” campaign on social media.

Still, the future for Cape Town looks bleak.

Source: The New York Times January 26, 2018

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