Capetown will run out of water in less than 90 days

They are calling it "Day Zero" - the day that Capetown, South Africa will run out of water. That day will happen in less than 3 months. 

The water conservation efforts of the city's population has been spotty at best. Apparently the dire nature of the crisis has not set in. This has forced the city to plan on instituting draconian measures to stretch the water supply beyond early April.


So how did this happen? How does a major city in the developed world just run dry?

It's been a slow-motion crisis, exacerbated by three factors conspiring together:

Even with the predicament they find themselves in, residents haven't dropped their water use significantly, said Patricia De Lille, Cape Town's mayor.

The city has lowered the water pressure in their mains to help stretch the water supply. But usage is still 86 million liters above its target goal.

"It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero," a statement from the mayor's office said. "We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them."

Starting February 1, residents will only be allowed to use 50 liters, or a little over 13 gallons, of water per person, per day.

Calling South Africa "a major city in the developed world " is a stretch. It may be "developed" more than most other African countries, but that's not saying much.

Still, the crisis is real and, given the situation, dire enough. This graphic shows how 50 liters of water can be used:

The real worry is drinking water:

Verbist, and several other residents, said that while they use tap water for household needs, they are reluctant to drink it.

"They claim it is fine to drink, but the kids were having tummy issues," she said.

So now, she and her family trek to the Newlands Spring to get their allotted liters of water twice a month. They tried to replenish their drinking water reserves Monday, but the line was just too long. They went back to the next day.

Resident Lincoln Mzwakali says his tap water "tastes funny" as well. So he relies on the spring"Many neighboring communities have started depending on it," he said.

This tweet graphically illustrates just how severe the water crisis is:

Three months is not a long time to refill the city's resevoirs. But even a little rain will help kick the can down the road a bit and give city leaders some time.

But what happens if this city of 4 million people runs out of water to drink? There will be a breakdown in civic order and a return to the survival of the fittest.

It won't be pretty.