19 January, 2018
The city of Cape Town, South Africa has announced new water restrictions as officials warn the water supply could run dry in three months.
The order – to take effect February 1 - will cut city residents' daily water usage by nearly half over current restrictions.
Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille announced that total daily usage per person will be reduced to 50 liters. The current limit is 87 liters per day.
The French news agency AFP notes that an average shower uses about 15 liters of water a minute, while a toilet generally requires about 15 liters per use.
"We have reached a point of no return," De Lille said in a statement. "We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water - we must force them."
Cape Town, on South Africa's southwest coast, is fighting the worst drought in a century. The city is home to four million residents.
The mayor has identified April 21 as "day zero" - the date when officials estimate Cape Town will run out of its usable water supply. If no rainwater is received and current usage continues, the city says it will be forced to turn off the main water supply on that date.
De Lille said many residents are not obeying the current restrictions and those using too much water could be fined. She noted the government also planned a new tax as another way to punish people who go over the limits.
In an effort to avoid running out of water, the city started several projects to build up its water supply in recent months. These included drilling deep underground to aquifers and increasing desalination efforts.
Bruce Hewitson is a climatologist at the University of Cape Town. He says while the new projects are a step in the right direction, they may be too late to change the urgent situation.
"Of course, the challenge is how quickly you can do this. We are facing a ‘day zero' in the next couple of months. And it takes time to put a lot of these measures in place."
Mayor De Lille agrees that the new measures will probably not be enough to prevent an eventual water cutoff. She said the possibility of "day zero" happening on April 21 was "very likely."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. The story was based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
shower – n. a device for washing and cleaning the body
toilet – n. a water-powered device for removing body waste
drill – v. make a hole in something using a drill
aquifer – n. underground rock that can hold water
desalination – n. process to remove salt from something, (such as water)
challenge – n. a difficult problem to solve