Plant & Food principal scientist Brent Clothier has emailed colleagues on the drought in the Western Cape province of South Africa which began in 2015.
At the sharp end of this drought is Cape Town. Clothier says Wikipedia has “a nice up-to-date assessment of the crisis” here.
Despite water saving measures, dam levels are predicted to decline to critically low levels, and the city has made plans for “Day Zero” on 4 June 2018, when municipal water supply will largely be shut off. If this happens, Cape Town will be the first major city to run out of water.
The only good news is that Day Zero has been extended to June 4 from May 11.
The delay has been attributed to the continued decline in agricultural usage and Capetonians reducing their water usage, said deputy mayor Ian Neilson.
The week’s average daily production of all water sources at the time of the extension – February 13 – was at 526Ml/day, above the target of 450Ml.
“Team Cape Town, we are getting there. We now need to see how low we can go to ensure that we stretch our water supplies as far as possible into the winter months by reaching the 450 million litre per day collective consumption target which equates to 50 litres per person per day,” said Nielson.
Meanwhile, the national government has declared the drought affecting the southern and western areas of South Africa a national disaster.
Clothier reckons “Day Zero” is almost a certainty, because there’s unlikely to be any rains before June.
Even before “Day Zero”, the drought has had major impact because
“… in response to the water shortage, the agricultural sector reduced water consumption by 50 percent, contributing to the loss of 37,000 jobs in the sector nationally, and leading to an estimated 50,000 being pushed below the poverty line due to job losses and inflation due to increases in the price of food. By February 2018 the agricultural sector had incurred R14 billion (US$1.17 billion) in losses due to the water shortage.”
Clothier asks whether such an outcome could have been foreseen?
His email includes this graph of the reservoir water-storage capacity for Cape Town, showing the race-to-the-bottom down to “Day Zero”.
It highlights something about the human condition which just offers a ‘shoulder-shrug and a hope-for-the-best’ response in the face of climate change.
We could change our ways, and adapt to the new norms.
Here’s the reason why we don’t adapt. It’s because we believe in the “hydro-illogical cycle”. …
Clothier explains this is a contemporary ‘perversion’ of Leonardo da Vinci’s first iteration of the ‘hydrological cycle’! [Check out http://www.eco-innovation.net/fr/node/11260.]