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Cape Town awaits Day Zero when its water taps will be turned off

Drought in the Western Cape (StormSignal)Drought in the Western Cape (StormSignal)On 16th April 2018, engineers will turn off water for a million homes and businesses in Cape Town, South Africa, an event that is being called “Day Zero”. It will be the first major city in the world to take this course of action. The crisis has been caused by a severe three-year drought, which has seen water levels in the city's reservoirs plummet to dangerously low levels. After a period of water saving measures, the city's authorities are now preparing for emergency rationing. In place of piped water, they will establish 200 water collection points, positioned around the city to ensure a supply of 25 litres per person per day within 200 metres of every citizen’s home. Questions remain about the city’s 800 schools and the risks to sanitation if their toilets are unable to flush. The authorities insist the schools will remain open.

Western Cape government urges conservation (Discott)Western Cape government urges conservation (Discott)Even there were no rain between now and April, Day Zero could still be avoided—although the city’s authorities now consider it to be “inevitable”. A lowering of pipe pressure and a public information campaign to conserve water have already cut Cape Town’s daily water consumption from 1200 million litres to 540 million litres. If this could be reduced by another 25%, the authorities say, the piped water supply could stay open until the start of the rainy season in May. Consumption would then be down to 50 litres per person per day, which is less than a third of the average daily water use in Britain, for example. But with only around a half of Cape Town’s residents achieving this goal, mayor Patricia de Lille announced that the city has now reached the “point of no return”. With everyone forced into Day Zero, no one will have more than 25 litres a day—an amount less than that typically used in four minutes of showering.

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