A Water Shortage Crisis Is Looming In Cape Town


Tom Hale

Tom is a writer in London with a Master's degree in Journalism whose editorial work covers anything from health and the environment to technology and archaeology.

Senior Journalist

Cape Town.

The iconic Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa. A G Baxter/Shutterstock

With fewer than 95 days left before they run dry, Cape Town might become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

The coastal South African city has been battling droughts for nearly three years, amounting to the worst one in their history. It’s now seriously reaching crunch time. With little rain on the horizon, the city has now ordered its 3.7 million residents to drastically cut their water consumption, take short stop-start showers, not wash their cars, and flush toilets as little as possible. If they don't, all of their taps could be shut off by April.


“There are only 95 days left before we reach Day Zero,” the City of Cape Town announced on January 15 in a statement“Day Zero has moved a day closer this week to April 21, 2018. Day Zero is when the City will be forced to turn off most of the taps.”

If the city fails to resolve the problem and secure alternative water sources, Capetonians will be forced to queue for their daily ration of water, no more than 25 liters (5.5 gallons), at numerous government-organized outposts around the city.


Cape Town’s mayor Patricia de Lille‏ tweeted: “I cannot stress it enough: all residents must save water and use less than 87 liters [19 gallons] per day... We must avoid Day Zero and saving water is the only way we can do this.” The city mayor has also impeded a “drought charge” in order to fund new water projects, such as constructing desalination plants.

There are a few factors driving this water crisis. The earlier part of the drought in 2015 was largely blamed on the El Niño weather pattern, however, as the situation continues to worsen, experts are now pointing towards poor city management, a growing urban population, and – you guessed it – climate change.


This Mad Max-like vision of “Day Zero” is daunting, and one that could become a more common sight around the world in the face of climate change. Scientists have estimated that North Africa and the Middle East will become so hot and dry they will be uninhabitable in the near future, even if every country meets its targets for the Paris climate agreement. Similar claims have been made about the Mediterranean suffering recurrent droughts. Most startling of all, one study found that nearly three-quarters of the world’s population will experience life-threatening heatwaves by the end of this century.


  • tag
  • climate change,

  • water,

  • rain,

  • climate,

  • urban,

  • city,

  • drought,

  • south africa,

  • Cape Town