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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

The World’s First 'Water Police' Are Handing Out Fines in This City

A new squadron of 60 police officers in Cape Town, South Africa, gets most of its tips from a 24/7 hotline. In this way, they’re no different from many other law enforcement teams.

But whereas most police officers receive calls for domestic disturbances, acts of violence, theft, and other crimes, these cops are hunting for people who use too much water.

Take Action: Urge Governments And Businesses To Invest In Clean Water And Toilets

They’re the world’s first “water police,” deputized to fine people for draining the local supply, according to Sky News.

And so far, they’ve received countless phone calls from local residents who spot people filling up pools with tap water, washing their cars, and watering their gardens.

All of these activities have been declared illegal in Cape Town following a water crisis earlier this year that threatened to make the South African capital the first major city to ever run out of water.

City officials acted aggressively once reservoir levels dropped to dangerous lows, imposing a daily 13-gallon water limit per person in this city of more than 4 million.

And even though the fear of running out of water has receded for now, city officials insist that usage must be controlled.

Read More: The People of Cape Town May Have Just Saved Their City From a Huge Crisis

Hence the water police.

Sky News reporters followed around a few officers as they fined an auto shop for washing a car, thanks to a tip from a nearby resident.

The new department has been successful so far, according to Sky News, because so many people have bought into the idea of water rationing. Many are troubled when they see others using water excessively.

Globally, water shortages are nothing new.

Read More: For Nearly 1 Million People in Cape Town, the Water Apocalypse Has Already Arrived

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.

Read More: Cape Town Isn’t South Africa's Only City With Water Problems

For those living in poverty in Cape Town, the deprivations of Day Zero — little water for drinking, showering, cooking, and cleaning — arrived long ago.

Global Citizen campaigns on ensuring everyone has access to safe, clean water. You can take acton here.