Cape Town less than 90 days away from running out of water

Water levels are seen at about 24 percent full at Voelvlei Dam, one of the regions largest water catchment dams, near Cape Town, South Africa, November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The South African city of Cape Town could be the first major city in the world to run out of water, as the city has less than 90 days’ worth of water in its reservoirs.

The city has until April 22, which is referred to as “day zero,” before its water supply runs out. City officials have cautioned Cape Town residents to scale back their water usage in order prevent the city from completely running out of water.

“Day zero” refers to when the city reservoirs reach 13.5 percent of its capacity. City officials have decided that at that point, municipal water supply will be cut off to reserve the water for a handful of essential services, like hospitals.

The exact date for “day zero” is calculated every week based on the city reservoir’s capacity and the residents’ daily consumption. Previously, the authorities pegged the date on April 29, but due to an uptick in the city’s daily usage, Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille revised the date to April 22 last week.

The city has also introduced strict guidelines to limit its residents’ water consumption. Each person has a cap of 87 liters per day, while watering gardens, filling up swimming pools, and washing cars have been banned in the city for the meantime.

Unfortunately, according to city statistics, only 54 percent of the population are able to hit their daily targets for water consumption, which means day zero could be moved again to a sooner date.

The water shortage in the city is a result of three years of unprecedented drought in the region, as well as the El Nino weather phenomenon. Another factor that affected the water crisis is the fact that the city’s water supply infrastructure has not been able to keep up with the city’s increasing population.

However, experts say that the three-year drought is considered a once a millennium event, and even the most well-planned water systems in the world would have suffered because of it.