Is It Possible for a Major City to Run out of Water?

The water crisis in Cape Town is nearing the breaking point. For the past three years, South Africa’s second-largest city has been suffering through the worst drought in more than a century. In addition, the population of Cape Town's metro area has grown significantly during the last two decades -- from 2.4 million people in 1995 to 4.3 million in 2018, all of whom need water for life’s basic necessities. To make matters worse, residents have not heeded the warnings to use water sparingly, so dam levels remain dangerously low. “Day Zero,” the day when the city's taps are expected to run dry, is estimated to be April 16th, 2018.

A drought 300 years in the making:

  • Water is mainly supplied by the six major dams of the Western Cape Water Supply System in mountainous areas close to the city. The dams are recharged by seasonal rains, typically from May to August.
  • The period between 2015 and 2017 marked the driest three years in the region since 1933. It has been estimated that a drought of this severity occurs only once every 311 years.
  • Starting on February 1st, each Cape Town resident will only be allowed to use 50 liters of water per day (a little more than 13 gallons).
More Info: CNN

Discussion Comments


Check southern Florida -- the large cities aren't there-- yet. As they grow, they use up the surface aquifers and sea water comes in to replace it. It's not that they will be out of water, but they will be out of fresh water.

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