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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.

Major cities that could share the fate of Cape Town

Cape Town’s historic water crisis was a wake-up call for the entire world. Something that had previously been unimaginable happened. If the targets set in the Paris Agreement are not reached, there is reason to fear that many other major cities could suffer a similar fate within a few decades. The example of Cape Town is a timely warning that chronic water shortages are already just around the corner.

Innovative solution: The Water Retainer in Morocco

Only 1 percent of the World’s water is available fresh water and 70 percent of that is used by agriculture. Morocco is one of the countries facing the crises of less rain, drier topsoil and increasing population.

The last drops: seven bodies of water threatened by drying up

Climate change is increasingly depleting the water resources of the world – in many places, drinking water shortages are already a serious problem. The shocking images below tell a story about Earth’s largest bodies of water that we can no longer ignore.

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.

Water scarcity leading to political conflict

Political tension caused by water shortages was also a feature of the history of the 20th century, and today, there is fighting in a number of zones where the lack of water was one of the initial causes of the conflict.

Hundreds of Australian towns face water crisis

Up to 180 thousand people may be left without drinking water due to the severe drought.

Water shortage threatens the Panama Canal

Extreme drought is putting one of the world’s most important trade routes at risk.

Extremely low water levels on the River Maros

The characteristic sand banks of the river have grown larger, some branches have dried out completely.

Millions left without water in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, shut down its main water works on 23 September citing shortages of foreign currency to import chemicals required for water treatment. The situation may not only lead to a severe water shortage for the population, but also increases the risks of diseases carried by contaminated water, such as cholera.

European farming could suffer 16 percent loss by 2050 due to climate change

A comprehensive report by the European Environment Agency claims that over the next 30 years, agricultural yields could drop by up to 16 percent in Europe due to the phenomena accompanying climate change.

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