Cape Town, South Africa’s iconic city and major tourist destination, is in dire straights. Residents have 100 days of water supply left.
By April 21, the city will run out of water due to the unrelenting drought: Day Zero.
Authorities are trying to delay the currently inevitable by urging the public to conserve. City mayor Patricia de Lille tweeted:
We've reached a point of no return. 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87litres per day. Day Zero is now likely.Punitive tariff to force high users to reduce demand. 50litres per person per day for the next 150 days – Drought Charge likely to be scrapped by Council. pic.twitter.com/pmsn06U9Iy
— Patricia de Lille (@PatriciaDeLille) January 18, 2018
In an impressive display of PR, the city released a video that detailed what residents can do versus what will happen if they don’t cooperate to the best of their ability with temporary water conservation efforts.
Day Zero is looming. Watch the video to find out what will happen if we reach Day Zero and what the City has been doing to prevent it. Thank you to residents who have been saving water where they can. Together, we can #ThinkWaterCT and avoid Day Zero. pic.twitter.com/SiRn19c0nd
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) January 17, 2018
The video tasks residents with saving as much water as possible:
“Ensure that you, your family, friends and community only use the daily allocated amount per person per day, wherever you are… taking stop-start showers and doing everything they can to save the water we have left.”
The protocol, should the water run out, is strict:
“We’ve identified water collection sites across the city where you will have to queue for your daily allocation of drinking water. The plan will be ready – with teams, equipment and security on standby.”
The video also detailed the efforts that the city is making, which involve new desalination plants to convert seawater into drinking water, drilling for groundwater and recycling wastewater.
“We have relooked our entire budget, made cuts, savings and tough decisions to fund water projects and reduce the burden on our water users,” they said in the video.
Cape Town also has two aquifers, Atlantis and Silwerstroom, up and running to contribute an additional five million litres daily.
Cape Town also approached the issue creatively with the removal of “water-thirsty alien vegetation” and shutdown of public pools, spray parks and fountains, according to the video.
The city tweeted links that show which residential properties are using less than 10,500 litres per month.
Together we can avoid Day Zero! We've developed a digital map highlighting residential properties using less than 10 500 litres per month. #ThinkWaterCT and see if you are below the limit: https://t.co/kbwT4Ch4LY. pic.twitter.com/KDeGXznOnM
— City of Cape Town (@CityofCT) January 16, 2018
The government likely means to let the public hold each other accountable with this measure. After all, it is the entire public that will suffer if every household doesn’t do their share in conservation.
“The potential water-saving benefit for all of Cape Town of making water consumption indicators publicly available outweighs any privacy issues at this stage of the crisis,” mayoral spokeswoman Zara Nicholson said.
As with China’s app that provided a platform for citizens to report illegal activity, this approach of social governance seems strange when the more normal form of governance across the globe is hierarchical and bureaucratic.
It certainly provides a sense of personal responsibility for oneself and for the entire community when each person’s actions are visible to everyone else. Will it be effective?
The trending #thinkwater urges conscientiousness. If people don’t act responsibly before the full impact of crisis, then the eventual outcome will only be worse.