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Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Can the Cape Town water crisis recur?

In the first months of 2018, the eyes of the entire world were trained on Cape Town. South Africa’s second largest city was frighteningly close to reaching Day Zero: the day on which it would have become the first major city in the world to exhaust its entire supply of drinking water.

The unprecedented water shortage was the result of a record drought lasting several years and the rapid growth of the city’s population. As the Cape Town water network had not been designed to withstand such a long absence of rain, by December 2017, the city’s water reserves had dropped down to a third of full capacity, despite the massive reservoirs that supply water to the city.

In order to avert the emergency, the South African government issued a warning. This stated that unless people are persuaded to save water on a large scale, on 22 April 2018 the drinking water network supplying households and public taps would be shut down, and people will only receive 25 litres of water per person per day at special distribution centres.

They used all available means to persuade people to curtail their water consumption Photo: Shutterstock

In order to avert Day Zero, in the first instance they limited daily water consumption to 87 litres per person, then, as that did not prove to be sufficiently effective, daily water consumption was restricted to 50 litres. They used all available means and many suggestions to persuade residents as well as tourists to comply with the water consumption limits to ensure that the city’s water reserves last as long as possible. In addition, a number of emergency scenarios were also developed to handle the water crisis, from recycling wastewater to desalination of water from the ocean and even the towing of icebergs to Cape Town.

Thanks to the frugal use of water, the city finally succeeded in delaying the dreaded Day Zero, but the people of Cape Town are far from home free; the catastrophe has only been averted temporarily. The western tip of South Africa is expected to suffer similar periods of drought with increasing frequency in the following decades.

Eastern Germany at the risk of water shortages

Drought had already reduced the water yield of many natural waters in Germany drastically last year, but this year, due to the record heat wave sweeping across Europe, experts are warning about the possibility of actual water shortages in some areas.

The poor must fight for every drop of water in India

The Indian water shortage resulting from unprecedented drought intensifies already significant social inequality.

The UN is worried about climate apartheid

Philip Alston, a UN expert on human rights claims that the world will soon face the risk of climate apartheid, as we are progressing towards a future in which only the rich will have the opportunity to escape the negative consequences of global warming while the poor suffer from the heat and famines.

Temperatures in Israel increase by 0.25 degrees Celsius per decade

According to a study published in the International Journal of Climatology, Israel’s average temperature has been rising continuously since the proclamation of the Middle Eastern state in 1948, but over the last thirty years the rate of warming has also increased.

What will become of you, Africa?

We have known for some time that a number of countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming on account of their positions alone. A recent study warns that the situation is even worse than we had previously thought.

Crisis: millions hit by water shortages in India

In some parts of southern India, the water situation has become critical: in Chennai, a city with five million inhabitants and the capital of Tamil Nadu state (and the country’s sixth largest city) there has been a water shortage for weeks.

Wild animals auctioned in Namibia because of drought

The lack of rain early this year has resulted in the most severe drought in the history of Namibia: the government declared a state of emergency in May. Five hundred thousand people are at the risk of not having enough food, not to mention the domestic and wild animals in the region.

Crisis in South Sudan caused by drought

Up to 7 million people may reach a hopeless food situation in the East African country according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Lost treasure: are water shortages a global or a local problem?

24 years ago, the UN designated June 17th as World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. The importance and the relevance of the topic is marked by the fact that water shortage is one of the main themes of this year’s greatest event in diplomacy, the Budapest Water Summit 2019.

Warming can directly affect the risk of armed conflicts

A new study published in Nature, authored by 11 internationally recognised experts on climate and military conflicts has looked at the impact of the global increase in temperature on the incidence of armed conflicts.

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