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Cape Town “day zero” pushed to July, but water crisis persists

Residents in Cape Town, South Africa, are still counting down to Day Zero, which is now expected to strike in the middle of July. At that time, the city will shut off residential taps and four million people will be forced to stand in lines to collect a daily ration of 6.6 gallons of water.

Day Zero was originally expected to arrive in April, but water conservation measures and a large donation of water to a Cape Town dam have helped to push it back. The dreaded day will officially hit when Cape Town dams are drained down to 13.5 percent.

With the rainy winter season approaching in a couple of months, there is some hope that dam levels will remain high enough to avoid Day Zero altogether. But officials are not likely to lift current water restrictions even if the city does get to keep its water supply running.

Ian Neilson, the city’s executive deputy mayor, said in a statement last month:

“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.”

There is also no guarantee the rainfall will come at all, considering the record drought of the last three years. This drought, which experts believe has been worsened by climate change, combined with population growth and overdevelopment is what disrupted the balance of water supply and demand.

Many residents reportedly ignored voluntary water restrictions for months. In January, officials ordered residents to use no more than 50 liters, or 13.2 gallons, of water a day.

Cape Town resident Michelle Koton explained to NBC News how her family has cut back on daily activities like flushing and washing clothes, and they now use plastic dishes so there are none to wash.

“The water-saving measures were fine in the beginning, but month after month the novelty of saving water has worn off and it’s become revolting,” Koton told NBC. “I have learned so much from this experience as to how much we took water for granted and how we wasted so much.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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