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A woman waits to collect water at a source for natural spring water in Cape Town, Feb. 1, 2018.
Bram Janssen/AP
Water & Sanitation

Extreme Water Rationing Helps Cape Town Push Back Water Apocalypse

Showering twice a week, flushing toilets with murky cleaning liquid, and lining up in public spaces for drinking water has become the norm in Cape Town, South Africa, the first major city in the world to face the possibility of no water, according to the New York Times.

But all of the scrimping done by ordinary citizens and businesses has helped the city stave off the arrival date of a water apocalypse, according to CNN.

Initially, government officials declared that “Day Zero,” when the taps run dry, would come April 12.

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After a series of earlier extensions, Day Zero is now July 9, government officials announced yesterday, about a month later than the previous deadline.  

“Today I urge the residents of Cape Town not to ease up on their water-saving efforts,” Ian Neilson, the city’s executive deputy mayor, said in a statement released on Monday. “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.”

The city is even now suggesting that Day Zero could be averted, according to Times.

Since Cape Town began rationing water, the city has cut its water use to about 139 million gallons a day, less than half of what was used four years ago when the drought began, the Times reports

Read More: After South African President Resigns, Country Looks to Future Wit Hope

Because residents are now heeding public warnings, the city’s reservoirs could last until the winter rains arrive in June, according to the Times, which could replenish water sources.

The reservoirs currently stand at 24% capacity.  

If Day Zero arrives, then the city will shut off taps and people will have to stand in long queues throughout neighborhoods under the supervision of armed guards.

That would mark the first time that a major city takes such drastic action to stave off water collapse.

For many people who live in poverty throughout the city, current and feared forms of water rationing are nothing new — the crisis primarily concerns wealthy and middle class citizens who consume a disproportionate amount of water.

Worldwide, roughly 2 billion people lack access to clean water, including more than 750 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Water crises related to droughts, conflicts and contamination have affected regions across the world, including California, Somalia, and Syria.

Read More: Drought-Stricken Cape Town Is Learning Resilience Lessons the Hard Way

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If Cape Town manages to avert Day Zero, it will be because residents took action, according to city officials.

"The reduced consumption that continues to be sustained by Capetonians is the primary reason that we are able to celebrate this achievement this week," Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party, said in a statement.