Day Zero

Where’s All the Water?

Day Zero

The day they turn off the taps in Cape Town.

The photo shows Sparky the squirrel looking in my pool, wondering where all the water has gone. The top white line shows where the water used to be and the bottom line where it is now.

You might have heard about Day Zero in the international news lately.

Actually, our drought has been going on for the last three years, caused by below average rainfall in our winter months of June and July.

People cite bad planning and foresight and an increased population. However, although the population of CT has increased over the years, the water consumption has not. The main reason for the drought is hotter temperatures than usual and three bad winter rainfalls.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate with winter rainfall. Normally enough rain falls over those winter months to fill our many large dams and supply the whole of the Cape Town area with plenty of drinking water to last right through the long dry summer months.

Dam Levels over the Years

This has not happened for the last three years. The dams have not filled after the winter rains. In fact, last year, 2017, our dam levels got as low as 19% before we finally got some rain. It just wasn’t enough rain.

The dams are currently at a total capacity of 24.6%. When the level reaches 13.5% they turn off the taps.

The last 10% of water in the dams is very difficult to use. Basically it’s just sludge. So before they reach this, they turn off the taps at 13.5 %.

Dam Levels

They won’t turn off the taps for essential services, such as hospitals, or for the townships and the CBD.

This leaves a few % left in the dams for the above uses and also for manual distribution where you queue for your own personal ration.

So you, and the other 4 million Capetonians, will have to queue every day, at one of the 200 odd distribution points that will be set up around the city, for your 25 litre ration of drinking water

This is Day Zero.

Day Zero is a prediction that changes depending on how much water is used each week and whether it rains. It was as close as 12 April at one point.

It has very recently been pushed back by a few weeks because farmers at Grabouw released 10 billion litres of water stored in their own private dams to the CT dam system.

The estimate I most trust is currently at 30 April.

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Most Capetonians are doing their very best to try to avoid Day Zero. Our daily allowance of water was 87 litres per person per day. This has been further reduced to 50 litres per person per day. When the taps are turned off you will be allowed just 25 litres per person per day, which you will have to go and queue for. Any pets you may have will have to share your ration.

You are not allowed to water your garden, wash your car, top up your swimming pool, or waste water in any way. There are serious fines for doing so. This is why my pool is so empty in the squirrel photo.

It is up to each individual to reduce their water consumption as much as possible right now and the majority of us are doing just that.

How?

By re-using water as much as possible.

Grey Water 

This is water previously used, for washing etc and then re-used to flush toilets or water plants. Bore hole water is also Grey Water. It is not clean enough to drink.

How to reduce water consumption.

Take a 90 second shower, fitted with a special shower head, and with a bucket in the shower to catch water. Or take a bath in only a bucket or two of water and keep the plug in. Then you can scoop out every last drop of bath water. This Grey Water can be used to flush the toilet.

Wash dishes once a day in a small amount of water.

Wash clothes once or twice a week on the shortest cycle. I have a sink that my washing machine empties into. I put the plug in and scoop all that Grey Water out to re-use too.

If the water is not too soapy you can put it on your plants. Otherwise, you can pour it down your loos and never have to actually flush again.

In toilets in shopping centres they have turned off the water in the taps and replaced the soap in the dispenser with hand sanitiser.

At many restaurants they also have hand sanitiser out for use instead of soap and water. They also limit the amount of water they bring to you. This is a hot country and many posher restaurants would serve you a tall glass of ice water when you sat down.

There are signs up at the airport when you arrive in Cape Town, alerting you to the drought and asking you to save water.

Most hotels also encourage you to save water by taking a short shower.

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What is CT doing about the drought?

The Cape Town government website has a lot of information and other links to click on. This is where I got the above graphs from.

There are several projects being developed, such as desalination plants, recycling, finding ground water, but none of these is finished yet.

The following clips are about 5 minutes long and will give you an idea of what is really going on here and not just the news stories.

CT water crisis.

What’s the government doing?

Watch a little for the CT accent if nothing else!

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What do I think of Day Zero?

I think we’ll run out of water towards the end of April; maybe mid-May if we’re lucky. I think we’ll have at least a month with no water in the taps, before it rains and the dams start to fill  up. Sometime after this, like next year, I think the desalination plants will start to come on line. So hopefully we won’t go through all this again next summer.

I think Capetonians will rise to the challenge and adapt, with a sense of humour. If there’s nothing you can do about it, then just make the most of it. Here is your chance to learn a new language, or finally start that book you’ve always been meaning to read (War and Peace?), while you stand for hours on end every day in the water queue!

Or if there is no water, drink your vodka neat – no ice cubes! (Every bit helps!)

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post script: This post took me many, many hours to write, with 27 revisions. Several of my readers have been asking about the drought, so I hope I have answered most questions.

 

56 thoughts on “Day Zero

  1. Ady

    I never surmised situations can go this bad..especially in big cities. With hot summers and such low allowed rations. The dam’s water chart is getting lower with every year! When will the winter start ? My prayers for a better rain this year… Thank you for putting so much effort into this post to make us understand the Day zero so well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you very much for reading Ady 🙂
      Winter rains in CT are usually June/July. We’ll get Some rain, but it needs to be more than the last 3 years, to start filling up the dams again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy

    The global water situation is serious. Places, like in CA is also bad… People need to be conservative about using water!

    Like

  3. ramblingratz

    I hope it can be avoided. I think people are starting to wake up to the fact that it is water that is the most precious resource we have, something easily overlooked in the UK!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. violetonlineisonline

    it has been astonishing watching Capetonians adjust to using less water and watching the communities come together to help one another. I know it is disastrous, also that so many Capetonians have lived like this for decades. And in Johannesburg, we take note because our Day Zero will also come and we too need to be prepared.
    Good luck and if anything, you inspire us all to be careful with water, to use less and not to waste a single drop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you so much. 🙂
      Living in SA we are all very careful with water; but this drought has made us Capetonians have to be even more strict not to waste a single drop.
      I just really hope it rains in time!

      Like

  5. A Curious Introvert

    I have been reading any of the articles I see about Day Zero since I learned about this issue on your blog and I have to say that your tremendous post on this issue is better than anything I have read in the papers. The information you provided and the video links included were fantastic and so were the humorous moments in the wonderful photo of Sparky looking into the pool and enjoying your vodka neat. I was amazed at all the changes you have had to make to save water and the fact that the videos mention that 65% of the people are not doing all that they can. We have rain on the way next week and I wish we could share it with you. Fantastic post and I absolutely appreciated your hard work and 27 revisions!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Aw Thank you so very much for your lovely comment 😀
      I really appreciate that you read my long post!
      We had really good thunderstorms a few days ago – but the rain was still only a few mm! Still, every bit helps.
      Yes – the person who learns how to send rain from flooded areas to droughts would be a saviour!
      Happy Sunday 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachel M

    Sounds tough. I feel for you. A similar problem happened in Brisbane from 2006-2009 with drastic water rationing. Everyone started installing their own rain water tanks and now many properties in Brisbane have them. Eventually the drought eased in 2010 with La Niña but in 2011 there were terrible floods! We seem to be swinging from one extreme to the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you. 🙂 I’m sure you understand what we’re going through.
      Many people have installed JoJo tanks, but they are expensive – and massive! – and it still needs to rain! I’m lucky to have the pool as a back up for grey water if needed.
      We used to get very heavy winter rains, but no flooding in CT – tho it would flood at places a few 100 km away.
      Climate change is not fun!

      Like

  7. Tom's Nature-up-close Photography and Mindfulness Blog

    I knew that the water situation in CT was getting worse; what you have written makes it seem even more precarious. We sure hope that rain comes soon and changes things for the better! Many parts of the U.S. have water shortages too. Instead of going to Mars, we need to take better care of our planet, keep our human population to lower more sustainable levels, and use technology to cleanly utilize sea water.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you Tom 🙂
      I didn’t want to shout Climate Change, but really that is our problem – along with the rest of the world, and humans have done this.
      Yes, we need to stop our population explosion and make sure everyone has access to fresh water and food. Hopefully we are heading that way.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you 🙂 I think it will be rough for a few months but hopefully never as bad again.
      It is such a pity that many places in the world suffer floods while others have drought, but as you say, how can you change that?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. blosslyn

    Wow, I didn’t know it was that bad, let hope Day Zero is Zero and the rains fall sooner 🙂 We had some thing similar back in the 80’s, we had to put a brick in the toilet system and then we had use grey water to flush and water the garden, well what plants were left. Use little water for showers and all the things similar to what you are going through now. I think they even turned the water off a couple of hours a day. Luckily it has never happened again, we now have too much water, just wish I could send some your way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you very much 🙂
      It doesn’t take much for places to run out of water. I remember the summer of 76 in Yorkshire, when the dams were nearly empty.
      Yes, it’s a pity rain is not more evenly spread around the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Herman

    The situation in your part of the world is almost every day on the tv news overhere. It must be very hard and difficult for you… Let’s hope you’ll get much rain soon.
    Take care, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. mistermuse

    Very interesting post, well worth all the time you put into it. I hope your location on the Cape of Good Hope is a good omen for your hopes to get all the rain you need this winter. 🙂

    Sparky looks like he’s about to jump in your pool for some water to drink, poor little guy! I see a wooden post against the side of the pool, so at least he’d be able to climb out (though the post is probably there for another purpose?).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you very much. 🙂
      The next photo of Sparky only showed his Bum as he peered even deeper into the pool! I didn’t post it because it was hard to tell he Was a squirrel! 🙂
      Also, he has helped himself to water from the bird bath before now and LM has many water bowls out n the stoep, so I don’t know What Sparky was looking for!
      Yes, the wooden post is to keep some hoses in position – My husband had to rig up a system so the pool filter could still function even tho the inlet and outlet pipes are way above the level of the water now. Waiting for the rain! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sarah Ferguson and Choppy

    Thanks for the update. It’s such a hard concept for me – I’m sitting here, looking out at a natural, freshwater lake (a frozen one, but still – that’s a lot of water right there). At home, it’s a pond and river. If we have a drought, it’s such a temporary thing which mostly just means we need to water our outdoor plants more often and we can’t set off fireworks or have campfires. Nothing like this. Thank you again for helping us understand what you’re going through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you Sarah 🙂
      Yes, I look at my pool as a last resort (not to drink) but for hand washing or loos etc if we do get to Day Zero.
      That’s one thing I find fun about the WP community – reading how different it is in other parts of the world. – And lingering over snow photos when I am sweltering! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  12. scooj

    Thank you so much for this excellent post. As I mentioned before, this is completely pertinent to my job in the UK. Over here it would only take three dry winters to find ourselves in exactly the same position. The SE of England receives very little water and has a huge population.

    I am full of admiration for your use of grey water and your high level of understanding of the issues surrounding your drought. Public awareness is the first step towards behaviour change, and it seems that the people of Cape Town are well advanced on that journey.

    Just as a offer of hope, in 2012 we were in the second dry winter in the SE of the UK and some restrictions were in place. We were heading to some rather more severe restrictions when the rain came – summer rain like we hadn’t experienced for years – it didn’t stop and flooding became the central issue. People forget how bad the drought was becoming.

    The rain will come, and there will probably be a lot of it. Whether it comes in time to put back Day Zero is another matter. I will be watching very closely how this unfolds and wish you well.

    Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment 🙂
      This is it – it doesn’t take much to tip the balance when it doesn’t rain enough.
      I was living in Yorkshire in 1976 when the whole of Europe had that very hot dry summer. The dams were nearly empty and they were talking about putting up stand pipes at the end of the streets. Fortunately it rained in time.
      They say it will take years for our dams to re-fill, but good winter rains would definitely help!
      I’ll certainly publish a Happy Rain post when it Does finally rain. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you so much. 🙂
      When I lived in UK we didn’t worry about water usage at all. It’s only since living here that I am always aware of every drop.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. pensitivity101

    I was reading about this a little while ago and meant to ask how you were coping, but I’m afraid other things occupied my mind.
    On the boat, we became aware of how much water we used having to top up our tank every week as we never let it go below half in case supply to the pontoons was cut off, as they did in the colder months. In the bungalow, we have a meter fitted and are using less than one cubic metre of water a week, which includes showers and the washing machine. Hubby has done the figures and calculated that a minimum of 20 litres per day is needed per person, so we know we are exceeding that. We remember the saying for flushing loos: If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Even now we are aware of our water consumption and ‘share a flush or two’. Our first water bill is due next month, so we’ll be able to see how much it’s costing us and if we need to reduce our usage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you but no worries – I know you’ve been having a rough time lately.
      When I lived in the UK we didn’t have to worry about water usage (except for 1976) and most people there still don’t save water. You are more aware than most and are saving a lot. 🙂

      Like

      1. pensitivity101

        We’ve had a few ‘drought’ periods, but nothing on the scale you’re experiencing. Water meters were fitted in all new houses many years ago, and we opted for one in the cottage which saved us over 50% on our supply bill. Having a cess pit (private waste) we had to have that emptied so became aware of what cleaning products and chemicals we couldn’t use. Water is a commodity we take so much for granted so we try to do our bit.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. scifihammy Post author

        Wow Excellent. 🙂
        I think everyone has become more aware of recycling and not wasting water. You’re right, we do take it for granted, until it’s gone.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. quiall

    Whew. I watched both videos. Great information. (Love the accent!) People like me have no experience at this level. I hope the rains come soon. “God bless the rains down in Africa.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you so much for reading – and watching. 😀
      Oh I’m sure it will rain – in June/July, but whether it’s enough?
      Still, we should have alternate sources up and running by next dry season. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Garfield Hug

    A well written piece that gave me an insight of Day Zero. I sincerely hope the 🌧🌨will fall and push back the need for Day Zero. Water rationing is no joke! I wonder how the old and or infirm will be able to manage the collection. If I lived in Capetown, I will be an example of hmm how do I lug those litres manually home. Thanks for sharing and broadening my understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you for reading 😀
      I am sure that if Day Zero does come, water collection for the old or infirm will be taken care of, either by neighbours or the council. We won’t let anyone dehydrate. 🙂

      Like

  16. Aditi

    Yes, it’s been on the news here. It’s strange that with all our technology, we haven’t been making more use of sea water yet, that would solve all the water problems in the world.
    Wishing you much rain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. scifihammy Post author

      Thank you very much 🙂
      Unfortunately desalination is very expensive, starting with building the plant.
      Once the salt has been removed from the sea water it still has to be treated and other minerals etc added to make the water drinkable.
      Each plant only produces a limited amount of fresh water daily, so many plants are needed for a city such as Cape Town.
      This is why we had dams instead to catch the rain – which we will hopefully get this winter. 🙂

      Like

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