The most feared Day Zero made headlines during the more significant part of 2018 in Cape Town due to various reasons. On this day, it was anticipated that all water tapes would run dry due to persistent drought in the Western Cape region. Despite being a coastal city, there were fears that Cape Town would face severe clean water shortages never experienced before.
However, the dreaded Day Zero did not happen as expected, but the water crisis is not yet over. The water levels of all inland dams that supply fresh water to Cape Town residents remain critically low. The good thing is that water challenges are now manageable as various stakeholders have come up with different measures to avert the problem.
People from different parts of the globe can draw many lessons about how to save water from the Cape Town catastrophe. Water is life, and it can be extremely challenging to live without a reliable source of this precious commodity. All the same, there is hope that the crisis is under control and there is no Day Zero in 2019.
Implications Of Day Zero
Day Zero meant that the Cape Town municipality would embark on a water rationing exercise to save the scarce commodity. The main supplies of clean water for drinking are inland dams in various parts across the Western Cape Province. Due to the persistent drought in 2018 and previous years, the dams were running low in their water levels.
There are fears that all taps would dry at some point and water rationing was the only viable option to distribute the commodity equitably. However, rationing has its consequences on the welfare of the people living in the city. The practice means that water is accessible from specific centers and residents would need to queue for the commodity.
With the strategy of rationing water in place, many people are forced to abandon regular practices like taking showers. A running shower wastes water, so people are forced to use buckets when bathing. The water crisis in this city also meant that people could not perform other tasks like washing their cars to save the scarce commodity.
Water rationing also affects businesses in various ways particularly those in the tourism and hospitality sector. In Cape Town during the more significant part of 2018, many hotels compelled their clients to use water sparingly. Incessant flushing of toilets and the use of showers were prohibited during this period to save water.
As it happened in Cape Town, the fear of Day Zero brought about permanent change to water usage among residents. The majority of residents in the city have adopted some water saving tips like using buckets when bathing. Other people have since abandoned watering their backyard gardens using municipal water.
Causes Of Water Shortages In Western Cape
The sub-Saharan region in Africa is prone to severe droughts that affect the rainfall patterns in many ways. The area often experiences long dry spells that can be perennial or they occur periodically. These dry spells affect the water levels in the dams that also supply the cities with clean water for drinking.
Water in inland dams is also for other purposes like irrigation that contribute to the welfare of the people. Activities like horticulture are sustained by the water that comes from significant barriers in and around the city. Such a scenario means that the demand for fresh water is high and droughts can worsen the situation.
Even though Cape Town is a coastal city bordering with the sea, it experiences water shortages. This situation is not new since the city primarily relies on inland dams for fresh water that is suitable for domestic consumption. Other commercial businesses also depend on water from dams.
The closeness of the city to the sea is not a solution to the water shortages it experiences. For example, the process of desalinization of sea water to make it consumable is pricey. Even large businesses believe that the strategy is not viable since it requires a lot of capital. However, there are other sustainable methods of obtaining fresh water like rainwater harvesting.
Significance Of Rainwater Harvesting
Rainwater harvesting is a viable strategy that can help you live off the local grid if you have sufficient storage facilities. The method is simple, and you can harvest fresh water that is ready for drinking and other domestic purposes. You do not require expensive chemicals to treat fresh rainwater.
The process of rainwater harvesting involves the installation of plastic tanks to collect water from the roof. You should also make sure that you fit gutters around your roof to ensure that no water is wasted. When the crisis of water shortages comes, you know that you are safe.
The water you harvest from your roof can also sustain you even if there is no crisis. For example, you can fill swimming pools with rainwater that you collect from the roof. A pool is large, and it requires large volumes of water to fill up. Therefore, the strategy of water harvesting can save you lots of money even if there is no shortage of water in the city.
People need behavior change to be proactive to such challenges that are unprecedented in most cases. Many people are reactionary to the problem, and they only think about possible solutions to the problem when it arrives. Water harvesting is a green method of obtaining water for domestic use, and it is affordable.
It is human nature that people tend to relax when they do not have pressing challenges at the moment. It seems the threats of day zero have taught many people a good lesson since they have changed their water consumption patterns according to media reports. More people still need enlightenment about the significance of saving water in their respective communities.
Other Water Saving Tips
In homes, it is vital to flush only solid matter as a way of saving water. The exercise can help to keep millions of cubic liters of water per day. Incessant flushing of water in the toilets can significantly contribute to waste since it merely goes down the drain for no apparent use.
The other method to save water is to avoid throwing away bathwater since you can use it for other purposes. You can collect it for reuse especially in the toilet so that you do not waste clean water through flushing. You can also use the water to scrub dirty floors so that you do not lose fresh water.
However, the water crisis in Cape Town seems to be a tale of two cities in one. About one-fifth of the population in Cape Town lives in crowded neighborhoods called townships. Most people live in tin cabins with no running water. To them, the challenges of water shortages or water restrictions are not new.
They live with these challenges every day, so they are used to them. The residents in the townships collect water from a community tap that is usually shared by 25 households or more. On a different note, the city of Cape Town should put measures in place to redress these artificial water shortages in certain areas.
The permanent water crisis in locations like Khayelitsha in Cape Town is a cause for concern. The residents face a risk of contracting water-borne diseases like typhoid as well as diarrhea. The city fathers have a responsibility of ensuring that everyone has access to clean water. Even if there is no crisis of the commodity, all people have a right to clean water.
credit: National Geographic
The other thing that can cause water shortages especially in different parts of Sub Sahara Africa is climate change. The phenomenon of climate change is real, and some of the causes are a result of human activities. Certain activities like industrialization contribute toward the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
These greenhouse gases then later form a thin but invisible layer in the atmosphere that traps heat so that it cannot escape into space. As a result, the process leads to a phenomenon that is commonly known as global warming. The earth will consist of higher temperatures that are above the normal range.
The problem with higher temperatures in other parts of the globe like is that they affect the rainfall patterns. The condition usually leads to perennial droughts in other areas, and these will receive rainfall that is below average. Many inland lakes in the regions affected strongly depend on rainwater for various agricultural activities that determine their survival.
Rainwater also feeds into dams which are reliable sources of water in many cities. An extended period of drought spell such as the one experienced in the Western Cape Region leads to water shortages. Therefore, the end of Day Zero in Cape Town does not necessarily mean the end of the water crisis in the future.
The problem is not only peculiar to this city alone but the whole of Sub Saharan Africa. It is crucial for people in different parts around the region to understand the impacts of climate change on their welfare in the long run. A holistic approach is vital to influencing positive behavior change among all people to reduce their impact on the climate.
Long Term Solutions To Climate Change
While commendable, the water saving strategies adopted by people following Day Zero are short term based. For instance, the practice of using water sparingly is short term based, and it cannot avert the recurrence of another dry spell in the region. All people should make concerted efforts to check their activities so that they do not contribute to global warming.
Each person has a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. Many people should adopt green strategies that are friendly to the environment if they are to fight the effects of global warming.
Practices such as recycling are good for the environment in the long run since they do not pose real threats to the environment. The continuous use of fire to destroy waste is not good for the environment, and people should stop these practices. The impacts of human activities are not immediately apparent on the changes in climate, but they take an extended period.
Therefore, it is never too late for people in different places to change their behavior so that they can avert threats to the climate. The use of devices like fossil fuel powered generators for energy generation contributes to climate change. Individuals should instead opt for other sources of energy like solar power that do not affect the climate.
People should also adopt strategies that seek to protect wetlands in their respective communities. For instance, people should avoid destruction of wetlands through activities like constructing houses around them. Such actions can affect the level of the water table such that it can be difficult to draw the water.
Wetlands act as water reservoirs, and they can feed into primary sources of water like dams when their levels are running low. The other important aspect about wetlands is that they can act as sources of fresh water ready for domestic and commercial uses.
Individuals and other commercial sectors can drill boreholes to avert the impacts of water shortages in large cities. Boreholes can sustain various activities that improve the welfare of the people in different ways. People with reliable boreholes on their properties can successfully live off the local grid for their water requirements.
The challenge of water shortages in large cities is not unique to Cape Town but can also affect other places. The primary cause of this challenge in Southern Africa is drought which is a result of other factors like climate change. Many areas are receiving below expected rainfall amounts due to changes in the climate.
From the Day Zero experience, it seems many Capetonians have learned critical lessons about the importance of using water sparingly. Indeed, there is no repeat of the same scenario in 2019, but people should always put measures to try to prevent unnecessary uses of water.