As Cape Town drought bites, what is ‘Day Zero’?

Cape Town is in the grip of a catastrophic three-year-long drought as winter rains have repeatedly failed causing dam levels to drop to dangerously low levels.

The city is now facing the prospect of having to turn the taps off under a so-called “Day Zero” scenario to conserve the city’s remaining water supplies.

We explain what that would mean for the Mother City.

What is Day Zero?

“Day Zero” is the day when city officials will be forced to cut off the normal water supply to 75% of the city’s homes – more than one-million households.

Instead, families and some commercial users will be forced to queue at 200 water collection points across the city to collect a daily allocation of 25-litres until water reserves are boosted.


Authorities have said that the collection sites will likely be guarded by police or military personnel.

What’s being done to keep taps on?

At the start of February, the target for personal daily water usage was slashed from 87-litres to 50-litres.

A single toilet flush uses nine-litres. It is hoped that usage cuts will buy the city time to find a solution – or for the rains of the southern winter to refill depleted dams.

Reducing household use has been prioritised over slashing industry’s consumption as residential use accounts for 70% of consumption.

Among the other plans being considered to avert a shut-off is an increase in desalination efforts with the first city-run plant expected to come on line later this month.

The site, located at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront, will initially produce two-million litres a day. The city’s demand is almost 600-million litres.

Three other plants are half way to completion – but are running behind schedule.

Water is also being trucked in from elsewhere in South Africa by the Gift of the Givers charity which has sourced water from more than 70 collection points to be used to supply Cape Town’s most vulnerable people.

Boreholes will also be key to averting “Day Zero”.

City officials hope to draw 80-million cubic metres from an aquifer on the Cape Flats, east of the city centre, 30-million cubic metres from the Atlantis aquifer and 40-million cubic metres from an aquifer at Table Mountain.

When will Day Zero happen?

The day shifts. It depends on the amount of water above 450-million litres used by the city each day.

For each day it exceeds that target, the shut-off draws nearer. But if the city uses less than that amount it moves further away.

It is currently forecast for May 11 with dam levels currently at 25.9%. Experts say anything below 10% may be unusable.

Will anyone be spared?

“Economically essential” sites will be spared the shut-off, officials say, as will impoverished informal settlements that already rely on communal taps.

The regional government has said that health facilities – both public and private – will also be guaranteed water supplies.

Schools will also be spared any initial shut-off.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Gregory Walton
Gregory Walton
Southern Africa correspondent at AFP

Related stories

Eastern Cape universities concerned by rising Covid cases

Fort Hare says 26 more students have tested positive while Walter Sisulu University says some of its students have been admitted to hospital.

Cape quakes no concern for Koeberg

Last week’s tremor has anti-nuclear campaigners questioning the safety of Koeberg, although the nuclear facility said the plant is designed to sustain a magnitude-seven earthquake

Car review: Shot of S-Presso lacks punch

Suzuki’s budget offering doesn’t do much much wrong but is not particularly memorable either

The young and the rentless: Inside Camps Bay’s “hijacked” mansion

An activist art collective is refusing to leave a luxury holiday home, claiming their protest is to highlight landlessness and growing inequality in Cape Town

Koeberg could power on to 2044

After three decades’ use, South Africa’s only nuclear power plant could see its lifespan extended by 20 years — despite objections

Extract from ‘Mermaid Fillet: A Noir Crime Novel’ by Mia Arderne

This extract from Mia Arderne’s debut work of fiction, ‘Mermaid Fillet: A Noir Crime Novel’ introduces readers to Uncle ‘M16-in-your-bek’
Advertising

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday