Cape Town, South Africa is facing a very dire situation due to a three-year-long mega-drought.
By May, the city was expecting to have to turn off its water supply and hand out a meager 25 liters per day to its citizens, who will have to make their way through long and potentially dangerous crowds to one of 200 distribution points throughout the city.
The shut-off day – known as “Day Zero” – was expected to occur around the 11th of May if water consumption continues at its current rate.
Residents have been told to reduce their usage to 50 liters a day and are fined if caught out, but at least half of Cape Town’s 4 million residents are ignoring this and continuing mass consumption of the city’s quickly depleting supply.
Now in July “Day Zero” was averted, but the risks remain.
Cape Town is fast becoming a case study for the rest of the world.
Eco-business.com has some suggestions for how water management could be handled in light of the situation in Cape Town.
The first thing they mention is that cities and municipalities should understand their own risks. They should look at things like population growth and climate change and note how these are likely to affect water and consumption levels.
The second thing is to manage a city’s water budget. Cape Town’s local government was very proactive in preventing this problem, but the national government, in a controversial move, continued to designate 40% of the city’s water to agriculture, even though drought was imminent.
As an alternative approach Eco-Business suggests:
“One solution is for city planners and water utilities to undertake proactive, integrated urban water management strategies that consider drinking water, wastewater and urban drainage (stormwater) more comprehensively, helping cities to build greater resilience and efficiency.
This method also takes a holistic view of water sources and uses across a city, recognizing that the actions of every stakeholder impact the others. Amid the nearly six-year California drought, the city of Los Angeles began developing a One Water plan to better manage limited water resources, stave off the impacts of climate change, and slash the city’s purchases of imported water by 50 percent.”
The third point they make is about investing in resilience. Cities should look to green infrastructure and be making sure they have the ability to recycle gray water and wastewater.
The world needs to take heed and realize that Cape Town is just the first of many cities that will face an extreme water shortage as the world’s population increases and weather patterns change and become different from what the expectation has previously been.
Part of good infrastructure asset management practice is recognizing changes in future demand, and the future availability of scarce resources such as water resources, and planning to manage the changes.