The pictures are a graphic visual reminder of a water crisis every day inches closer to full catastrophe.
Satellite images of South Africa’s tourist hub of Cape Town reveal just how close the city is to running out of water as its biggest dam shrinks daily.
April 16 will see the water crisis in Cape Town reach full-on disaster.
That’s Day Zero: the day the city’s taps will run dry, cutting off water to its four million residents, officials say.
Satellite images from by planet.com show the Theewaterskloof Dam, Cape Town’s largest water reservoir, at dangerously low levels, depleted daily thanks to the drain of population growth, climate change and a drought with seemingly no end, officials say.
The massive dam has a capacity of more than 480,000 megalitres of water, accounting for more than half of all the water in the area’s dam system, but right now, it’s contents are disappearing before the city’s eyes.
Last week it was 14 percent full. This week, it’s 13 percent.
In 2014, Theewaterskloof was near full capacity, but the region went into drought in 2015 as rainfall fell to just 325mm, Universe Today reports.
In 2016 it got worse, with just 8.7 inches of rain. In 2017 the area received a scant 6 inches of rain.
As of January 29 this year the Cape Town area’s six reservoirs were at just 26 percent of their total capacity. And Theewaterskloof Dam is in the worst shape.
Some 70 percent of water used in Cape Town is consumed in homes, authorities say.
Day Zero, set for April 16, would occur if the average level of all reservoirs serving the city falls below 13.5 percent. The average level has dropped to 26 percent.
Day Zero’s exact date changes on a weekly basis, but Cape Town’s mayor warns if current consumption levels of water continue, the disaster plan will swing into action sooner rather than later.
Taps will be turned off everywhere except at hospitals and at communal taps.
Residents, with nothing in their homes to drink, wash or bathe in will have to collect water from about 200 collection points in the city.
Already they have had daily water limits cut to 50 liters per person from 87 liters.
Already the use of city drinking water to wash vehicles, hose down paved areas, fill up private swimming pools and water gardens is illegal.
Residents using too much water will be fined or have devices that limit water supply installed on their properties, according to the rules.
Security, tourism fears
The possibility that most city taps might have to be shut off has raised concerns about security and police and the military are expected to help secure water collection sites if Day Zero occurs, AP reports.
The government will be asked to “rein in unscrupulous traders” who have raised the price of bottled water to take advantage of the crisis. Naturally, poorer people will suffer the most from price gouging.
Cape Town’s hospitality industry leaders have urged hotels to consider switching to saltwater instead of freshwater in swimming pools and rethink their restaurant menus.
They also want restaurants to forget about using napkins that need washing, steer away from offering foods which require lots of water to prepare such as pasta and steam rather than boil vegetables.
Tourism chiefs have reported some visitor cancellations.
The water crisis has all of the country in alert, but Cape Town is closest to the breaking point.
Meanwhile, political factions bicker over alleged failures to respond to warnings years ago about a looming water crisis.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the situation in Cape Town is a priority and officials are expected to announce contingency plans this week.
Much of the water that supplies Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg, Pretoria and much of the South Africa’s industry, flows from the Katse and Mohale dams in Lesotho.
According to SA Affairs, dam levels in Lesotho are “very low” — the worst ranking — and are in their tenth per centime, meaning levels have been higher more than 90 percent of the time at this point in the year.
Levels are lower than at the height of the drought two years ago when the combined levels of the dams were at almost 50 per cent capacity compared with 32 percent now.
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