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Cape Town's main water supply from the Theewaterskloof dam outside Grabouw, Cape Town, Feb. 1, 2018.
Bram Janssen/AP
Water & Sanitation

Heavy Rains Save Cape Town From Running Out of Water — For Now

The dams in Cape Town, South Africa, are returning to sustainable levels after heavy rain pounded the city for days, according to Reuters.

The dams are now 31.5% full, compared to 21% during the same period last year and less than 13.5% earlier this year, when federal officials declared Cape Town’s water crisis a national disaster.

The rain is expected to continue through the end of the week, according to the local website Cape Town Etc, but this particular storm is unlikely to deliver enough water to eliminate the city’s predicament overall.

Take Action: Call on World Leaders to Prioritize Sanitation and Hygiene

“There are no guarantees about anything,” Peter Johnson, a climatologist at the University of Cape Town, told Cape Town Etc. “But statistically we don’t expect the rainfall this year to be below normal. We also don’t expect it to be very much above normal.”

City officials are urging residents to continue conserving water.

“We urge water users — domestic and industries — to continue using water sparingly,” Rashid Khan, regional head at the water and sanitation department, told Reuters.

Earlier in the year, the city imposed a daily ration of 50 liters, or 13 gallons, per day per person, a limit that forced people to avoid showers, toilet flushing, dish washing, and more.

Read More: What Life Is Like on 13 Gallons of Water a Day — Cape Town's New Reality

Officials even deployed the world’s first water police to fine people who washed their cars, watered their laws, and otherwise surpassed the daily limit.

They also significantly reduced water allocation for agriculture, the largest user of water in the country.

Remarkably, these stringent measures halved the city’s consumption of water, allowing government officials to avoid “Day Zero,” when taps would be turned off and people would have to line up to collect water at guarded pumps in public spaces.

Officials are not yet ready to return to the way things were because water shortages are likely to be the new normal in Cape Town, where the worst drought in more than a century continues to dry up water sources, according to Reuters.

Cape Town isn’t the only place running up against water constraints as climate change rearranges rain patterns around the world.

In South Africa alone, numerous cities are facing similar water crises.

Read More: South Africa Aims for 'Zero Carbon' Buildings

Around the world, roughly 2 billion people don't have reliable sources of clean drinking water, and one child every minute dies from preventable waterborne diarrheal disease.

By 2050, demand for fresh water is expected to grow by more than 40% and around a quarter of the world’s population will live in places where water resources are endangered, according to the United Nations.

For those living in poverty in Cape Town, the hardships of Day Zero arrived long ago.

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