South Africa

South Africa

#CapeWaterGate Special Report: The Cape of Storms to come

#CapeWaterGate Special Report: The Cape of Storms to come

Welcome to Cape Town. Welcome to the New Normal. By DIANA NEILLE, MARELISE VAN DER MERWE AND LEILA DOUGAN.

Read the full Daily Maverick Chronicle special feature here:

In September 2017, when it became clear the City of Cape Town had few viable solutions for a drought of potentially precedent-setting proportions, members of the non-profit Water Shortage South Africa took matters into their own hands. CEO and water expert Benoit le Roy began planning a campaign to lobby the United Nations for aid.

This (drought) is bigger than South Africa can handle,” Le Roy said. “How does a country handle four million refugees?”

Other cities and regions have stared down a total water outage in recent years: Barcelona, Adelaide, California, Gauteng. But Cape Town, say analysts, may be on a five-month trajectory to actually getting there.

For months, the City has been pleading with residents to lower their water usage, as it scrambles to augment existing supplies before Day Zero. By October, Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille released a detailed statement preparing citizens for what could occur if they did not co-operate. Extreme pressure reduction began. Officials quietly switched off taps in publicly unannounced neighbourhoods across the region. Water experts issued dire warnings.

What happens when a city runs out of municipal water? Models are clear on the severity: the tanking of the economy, the destruction of sewerage infrastructure, outbreaks of violence, the spreading of disease.

As Day Zero threatens to approach, public consumption isn’t the only problem. Administrators both local and national are staring down a humanitarian crisis.

So now it seems urgent to ask: how did this slow-motion disaster happen? DM

Some may have already seen a Cape of Storms to come video clip earlier this week. Read the fully Daily Maverick Chronicle special feature here.

Photo: Theewaterskloof dam in mid-winter, July 2017. Photo: Christiaan Sterfontein


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