Intense drought in South Africa’s Western Cape Province has led the world-renowned city of Cape Town to the brink of “Day Zero”— the date at which residents would be forced to collect strictly rationed water supplies from shared distribution taps. Water conservation efforts have so far prevented a massive water shutdown, but the city’s rapid population growth and reliance on surface water dams makes it particularly vulnerable to lower precipitation levels.
As the first major industrialized city to face such water shortages, Cape Town serves as a harbinger of the increasingly complex, environmental challenges that are likely to arise in other fast-growing cities as climate change intensifies.
In this Ground Truth Briefing podcast, the Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) Director Eric Viala joins the Wilson Center’s Lauren Herzer-Risi, Circle of Blue‘s Brett Walton, and the University of Johannesburg’s Mary Galvin to discuss the critical issues surrounding Cape Town’s looming water crisis and lessons learned for other urban areas facing water shortages.
“We will have more and more events like what happened in Cape Town as populations grow and water demand grows,” said Viala. “We don’t know when those droughts will happen [and] we are not even able to predict what will be the probability of those events happening… There is not enough data.”
Listen to the entire conversation below: