The looming threat of ‘Day Zero’ in Cape Town has been an eye-opener around the world but also highlights the stark differences in global water supply.
Reporting on the Cape Town water crisis in South Africa has been both eye-opening and challenging, especially when trying to write a longer article for the magazine. It doesn’t help that ‘Day Zero’ – the day when taps to the public will be shut off – keeps changing.
Described by officials as a “moving target”, Day Zero was originally predicted to fall on April 12. However, with conservation efforts improving across the city, it was then moved back to May 11, before being moved to June 4 and the latest is July 9 (at the time of going to print). Inevitably, between writing this and the magazine reaching you, the situation could well have changed again!
The threat of ‘Day Zero’ has been a stark wake up call around the world. It has raised the question of how can a major city in the modern era infact run out of water? As you can read from our analysis on page 12, there are a lot of reasons but the primary answer is politics.
Other nations around the world have proven that the engineering capability is there to build a robust water supply, whether this includes desalination or water reclamation, so this situation doesn’t happen. Take Israel, Singapore and Windhoek, Namibia.
The fact remains that evidence has been available for some time showing the population in Cape Town has been increasing, while dam levels are dropping. If you have to wait for a water crisis to hit before taking action, then quite frankly, it’s too late. Scrambling for temporary solutions is just putting a band aid on a flesh wound - eventually you are going to have face the situation and plan for the long term.
If you have to wait for a water crisis to hit before taking action, then quite frankly, it’s too late.
Should Day Zero happen in July, then Capetonians will need assistance. The maximum allocation will be 25 litres of water per person, per day. To put that into perspective, it takes on average upto 15 litres to flush a traditional toilet once so this isn’t going to go very far. The water will be available from 200 points of distribution across the city but the logistics behind people collecting 100 litres for their families of four, on average, could lead to complete chaos.
While Day Zero discussions will no doubt continue for a long time, elsewhere certain utilities are progressing to such a stage with their wastewater treatment plants that they have reached the Holy Grail of wastewater treatment: self-sufficiency. One page 18 you can read our latest update looking at projects in Denmark and the UK where the operators have actually generated more energy than they need.
Finally, as you will have seen on our cover, this is our bi-annual IFAT event preview edition – take a look at our special section starting on page 30. Our video team will once again be attending the Munich event so I look forward to catching up with many of you over a cold weißbier, or three! Enjoy the issue.