Back In The Drought


Madie Fujimoto, Editor

Day 0 – when no water will come out of the faucet.

Cape Town, a popular tourist destination, is the second largest city in South Africa and is home to about 3.7 million people, close to San Diego’s population. Cape Town has been in an extreme drought for three years. This drought is caused by a spike in population, no plans for alternative water sources and citizens refusing to abide to water limitations.

Day 0 was originally expected on April 21, 2018, but the city has been able to lower their water usage at a faster rate in recent months. Cape Town citizens have reduced 523 million liters, about 139 gallons, of water usage per day. According to the New York Times, as of Feb. 1 Cape Town has limited each citizen to 50 liters, a little over 13 gallons, of water per day for all of their water use including drinking, cooking and washing. As a comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2016 that the average American uses 88 gallons per day.

This drastic water usage decrease has allowed them to push back Day 0 to July 9 and, according to the New York Times, some officials are reporting that Day 0 may be able to be avoided altogether if their conservation continues.

As Californians who have experienced our own recent drought, the concern is whether or not Day 0 could happen in California.

According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, about 20% of California is experiencing severe drought and over 90% of the state is considered “abnormally dry” as of Feb. 27.

The months from December through February normally supply California with half of the total rain the state receives annually, but according to KQED, these past months have been “the driest on record.” ABC7 also reported that Los Angeles has only received about 25% of its standard rainfall.

However, officials claim that the likelihood that a situation similar to the one in Cape Town happening in California is very low.

When the Mercury News interviewed Leon Szeptycki, the Executive Director of Water in the West at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, he said, “[California] just suffered our worst five-year drought and we didn’t run out of water. For a major city to run out of water, we’d have to have a drought a lot worse than one we just had.”

The Mercury News also interviewed state official Felicia Marcus who is the chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. “[California is] in much better shape, for a variety of reasons,” Marcus said, “In the last drought, the mandatory urban conservation wasn’t because we were going to run out of water. It was because we wanted to be safe rather than sorry, and not get anywhere near where Cape Town is now.”

Our recent drought was a huge warning and Cape Town is a reminder to us and the rest of the world that water is a valuable resource and not endless. This year, January and February were abnormally dry with little rain and although we recently had rain in the Bay Area, it does not mean that we should be taking our access to water for granted. We should be conserving water daily.

Some easy ways to help conserve water at home are turning off the tap when brushing your teeth or washing your hands, collecting the cold water before taking a shower and using it to water the garden or installing rain barrels.

To help Cape Town, there is a non-profit organization called Water 4 Cape Town. Their main goal is to collect donations and to educate their community on how to save water. Check out their website to learn more about what is happening in Cape Town, tips to conserve water and to donate: