Cape Town's Day Zero Moved Back to July 9

The city's executive deputy mayor writes that "defeating Day Zero is in sight if we sustain our water-saving efforts."

Residents of the South African city of Cape Town are breathing a little easier as city officials have moved back Day Zero, when municipal drinking water supplies would be largely turned off, to July 9. It had been April 12 as of last month, but water conservation by the residents has slowed the decline of key reservoirs, Alderman Ian Neilson, the city's executive deputy mayor, wrote in a statement titled "Defeating Day Zero is in sight if we sustain our water-saving efforts."

Persistent, long-term drought has imperiled the city's available water supplies. Neilson wrote that "Day Zero, the day we may have to start queueing for water, has now moved to 9 July due to a weekly drop in dam levels of only 0.5% (as compared to a 1.9% drop in 2014). This week's lower rate of consumption can be attributed to the Groenland water reaching Steenbras Upper Dam last week and slightly increasing the dam level, as well as to a further reduction in Cape Town's weekly average demand to 523 megalitres per day (MLD) compared to 1,130 MLD in 2014."

(A megaliter is equal to 1,000,000 liters.)

"The Groenland water transfer and the reduction in our weekly average demand has had a dramatic impact on the Day Zero date, which is determined by assuming that the fortnightly trend of weekly dam storage change will continue unchanged," he added. "This precautionary outlook assumes no further rainfall and that water demand may not reduce over the next few months. It has been adopted to allow sufficient lead time for implementation of temporary water collection points in the event that these may be required. We anticipate that Day Zero could move back into June again once the Groenland transfer has been completed, unless we are able to meet the 450 MLD collective water usage target. Therefore it is imperative that we reach this target to make it through to the winter rains.

"Today I urge the residents of Cape Town not to ease up on their water-saving efforts. We cannot afford to slow down when the estimated Day Zero date moves out, simply because we cannot accurately predict the volume of rainfall still to come or when it will come. Last year we had abnormally low winter rainfall, and we cannot assume that this year will be any different. The only way we can stretch our water supplies is to adhere to the 50 litres per person per day water allocation. Our water saving efforts across the metro have thus far been our greatest defence against Day Zero. Now is definitely not the time to ease up."

He thanked the Groenland Water Users Farming Association "for the water transfer, which made a considerable difference when we needed it most." And he explained that preparations for Day Zero continue as planned, "along with the city's aggressive roll-out of pressure management initiatives and the installation of water management devices at the properties of high users across the metro. Enforcement blitzes will also continue to ensure that all water users adhere to the water restrictions."