On October 4th, 2017, Cape Town became the first major developed city to announce the possibility of a “Day Zero”— a date where officials would shut off the city’s water system, causing taps to run dry.


Numerous factors are driving the Mother City’s water shortages—population growth, inefficient water management, poor urban planning—but the main catalyst has been a severe, three-year drought that has depleted the city’s reservoirs, likely exacerbated by climate change. After months of gradually increasing water restrictions, in February the city imposed level 6b—the harshest limitations yet—and citizens followed them, dreading the day the flow of water would stop.

The efforts seem to have worked: In March, the provincial government announced that Day Zero had been pushed back to 2019. But the restrictions aren’t gone, and water remains in short supply.


Experts estimate that, to avoid catastrophically low water levels, restrictions may have to remain in place for three more years. That would test the patience of the people of Cape Town along existing divisions of race, class and ability.




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