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We wake up in the morning. Washing our face and teeth is part of our daily routine, before the day begins. What if not a single drop of water would come out of the tap? What if not only us, but the other 4.5 million citizens in Cape Town would have to face the same issue? This is not a scene from a new disaster movie from Hollywood, but the shocking reality. The traditional city of South Africa came very near to close all taps in the city.

In 2019, every household in the city will likely face a situation where water does not come from the tap, but it gets to our house in cans, after a long que. This day will be called Day Zero. From this point, the military will ration 25 liters of water per capita, at 200 distributional points.

2019 may seem to be far away, and no one knows what will happen until then. However, the story is not that simple. Until the very last moment, it seemed that this eventuality will take place already on April 12, 2018.Panic broke out among the locals. The best selling product was the jerry can, and the mineral water stocks were looted completely in the supermarkets. There was a massive increase in the sales of wet wipes and hand sanitizers, as well as dry hygiene products which are still functioning without water. Shower time was limited to 1.5 minutes and people used colorful cans to bring water from public fountains, which was a typical and chaotic seen in the streets. According to the recommendations, many people tried to recycle water on the most efficient way. For instance, it was instructed to use bathwater or cooking water for flushing down the toilet or watering the plants. The unwashed hair became the symbol of social responsibility. However, not everyone acted on the environmentally conscious way. The panic forced people to accumulate as much water as possible, instead of contribution.

The 21st of April was the originally predicted date of Day Zero, but residents did not comply with the existing restrictions, therefore it was necessary to introduce further restraints. The city officials asked people to limit the water consumption in 87 liters a day. Hence, this is the daily volume of water for personal hygiene, doing the laundry, dish washing, cooking, drinking and watering the plants. On the 1st of February, the limit was further reduced to 50 liters per capita, because of the overconsumption.

How little is that? An average Hungarian citizen consumes this much water by using the washing machine only once. Every time we take a bath, 100 liters of water flows down to the sinkhole. Washing the dishes takes 10 liters. 5 liters is the amount we use for washing our hands. We did not even mention cooking, flushing the toilet, cleaning and watering the plants. An average Hungarian household consumes 600 liters of water a day, which is the new dream for the people of Cape Town.

This situation did not develop in a blink of an eye. Currently, there is raging heat causing drought in the city of South Africa. The actual situation is so serious, that the locals have not had such an experience in 100 years. The water-supply of the city is provided by six reservoirs. After 3 consecutive years of drought, there is a visible change in the size of four establishments, which is evident on the satellite photos made by NASA. The Theewaterskloof reservoir almost completely dried up. In 2014, the water level was 87.9 percent, but now it does not even reach the quarter of that. Day Zero will come, when the measurement drops below 13.5 percent. This is not the only reason of the water shortage, but the absence of infrastructural development as well. Therefore, the lack of maintenance of the existing reservoirs and the need for new establishments led to this situation. The rapid growth in population and the climate change also made contribution to the problem.

It seems that there might be some time until 2019, thanks to the responsible behavior of the citizens and some rainfall. The limit of 50 liters will remain in effect until then. Though, the people of Cape Town cannot be relieved. It is almost certain that the western corner of South Africa will have to face periods of drought such as this one. The question is; how can they prepare for that? However, there are other places where water shortage is an existing problem. Many cities in countries like India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil might face similar problems, if they will not act in time.

More in this category: « The Tragedy of the Aral Sea
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The GLOBS is the only magazine in Hungary that focuses on global affairs and trade. The topics cover the different aspects of social life, business and culture (especially business culture), research and development, investment opportunities, charity initiatives, and the everyday life of the diplomatic delegations.
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