While millions of individuals are not even prepared to entertain the idea that Cape Town could actually run out of water, even though the dams are down to less than 10% usable water currently despite the recent rains, it could happen.
So, what would actually happen if Cape Town really did run dry, if “Day Zero” actually became a reality?
In the beginning it may not be that bad, just a bit worse than what citizens have already become used to during the recent droughts; the waiting in lines to fill one’s water containers, hoping that there will still be enough water left in the tanker by the time your turn comes, then schlepping the heavy containers back home.
While the wealthier citizens of the province are used to turning their taps open and seeing fresh water pouring out, those in poor areas already know how it feels to go without or do with minimal water. Rocking up to a water truck or communal tap in a BMW to collect a few litres of water for household use will be very strange for them.
Maybe they will be too embarrassed to go and fetch water at first, opting to rather purchase litres and litres of bottle water from the supermarket, but eventually that water too will dry up and the supermarkets will raise the prices exorbitantly for as long as they can , until there is no more stock at all.
Entrepreneurs will begin flogging all those “water-from-air” machines they bought for just this type of emergency, at ridiculous prices, until their stock is sold out. Overworked boreholes across the city begin running dry too, and with no respite in sight things are becoming dire.
Innovative individuals will begin “liberating” water from any source they can, including swimming pools and ponds to sell, and selling it to their communities. Anyone who owns a rainwater tank will need to ensure that it is guarded; people being getting sick from dehydration and drinking unsafe water; hospitals get overcrowded and cannot function due to a lack of water, and suddenly there is anarchy in the land.
Businesses close down, cattle die, agriculture effectively stops for lack of irrigation water, sewage systems cease to function, and a mass migration to other parts of the country begins, leaving ghost-towns in their wake…
A bit melodramatic? Maybe so, but also a definite possibility, so be water-wise; don’t waste water, re-use, recycle and re-purpose water wherever possible so that the above scenario does not become a reality.