Countdown to Day Zero: Cape Town’s Water Crisis

In 2018, due to 3 consecutive years of drought, Cape Town in South Africa was on the verge of a Day Zero.

Day Zero for Cape Town was defined as a situation in which all the town water reserves had less than 13.5% water left. If Cape Town would have reached that situation, water would have been rationed @25Liters per head per day.

Image: Quartz Africa // The Theewaterskloof Dam, which supplies most of Cape Town’s
potable water, in February 2018.

Generally an urban citizen uses approx. 200Liters of Fresh Water every day. Imagine a situation in which every individual is getting only 25Liters per day. The water would have been available at only a few points in the city under the supervision of armed guards from where the residents would have to carry it to their homes.

A rough breakup of 200 Liters per day is given below

Task Consumption per head per Day (in Liters)
Drinking 5
Cooking 5
Washing Utensils 15
Lawn Watering & Gardening 15
Washing & Cleaning of House 15
Washing of Clothes 25
Flushing 45
Bathing 75
Total 200

Now think of how you would manage all these activities in just 25 Liters instead of 200 Liters.

Image: AP Photo/Bram Janssen // Residents queue to fill containers with spring water in
Cape Town on February 2, 2018, one of the measures taken to avert “Day Zero.”

In Cape Town, the water rationing had reached a level where only 50 Liters was allotted for every individual per day.

The rationale behind the 50 Liters was, residents are allowed:

  • One shower a day using no more than 10 liters if also washing your hair. The limit is five liters without a hair wash.
  • One machine wash of laundry per week (10 liters).
  • One liter of water for cooking and meal preparation.
  • Three liters for drinking water, coffee, or tea.
  • One liter for pets.
  • Two liters for brushing teeth and washing hands.
  • One sink washing of dishes per day or one “economy load” of dishwasher washing every third day (nine liters).
  • Five liters for house cleaning every two days.
  • One toilet flush per day.

Cape Town has somehow recovered and averted this massive disaster. But many cities across the globe are gradually moving towards Day Zero. Bangalore looks like the most probable city to hit Day Zero first in India.

Read: Will Bangalore be the 1st Indian City to run out of water?

In Bangalore, the ground water level has fallen below 1000ft, the area covered by lakes have shrunk to less than 20%. A good proportion of the city depends on tanker supply for their daily survival.

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