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As climate change intensifies droughts, Cape Town’s water crisis may signify a new normal

Laura Poppick writes:

Last June, Piotr Wolski began transforming his Cape Town swimming pool into a water storage tank for his home. By September, he had directed all gutters from his roof to flow into the pool and had installed a pump to transport water into the house where he lives with his family of four.

Wolski works as a hydrologist studying regional rainfall patterns at the University of Cape Town, but his retrofit was no research experiment. Rather, he was responding to the worst drought the region has experienced in 100 years. Since 2015, average rainfall has dipped to less than 15 inches per year a historic average of roughly 30 inches pear year. Wolski now runs his toilets, washing machine and shower off the pool, and runs the rest of the house—including washbasins, kitchen sink and a dishwasher—off municipal water. “But if the need arises, I can put everything on the pool water,” he says.

That need may very well arise. As news outlets have reported, South Africa’s second largest city imminently faces so-called Day Zero, when reservoirs will run so low that the city will turn off municipal taps to its 3.74 million residents. That ominous day, currently slated for May 11, could creep up sooner if residents don’t abide by the current water restrictions of 50 liters per day, the city warns. And while this marks one of the most severe water crises any modern city has experienced to date, this scenario could become more commonplace as climate change intensifies droughts in some parts of the world. [Continue reading…]

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