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Cape Town Needs a New Approach to Manage Water

Cape Town, located in South Africa's Western Cape, is facing one of its worst droughts in over a century. The city, and southern Africa more broadly, have been experiencing significant water shortages for the last two years that were not entirely unforeseen.

Since 2001, Cape Town has had a water conservation and demand management policy to reduce the city's water demand. These efforts have kept overall water demand relatively stable until 2014, when demand started to rise. Due to a combination of lower rainfall in the winter of 2016 and a relatively slow initial governance response to the drought, the city officially declared a water crisis this year.

In early April, Cape Town was down to its last 100 days of water. The water levels in the dams that supply the city had fallen to 20% of their capacity. In response, the city imposed level four water restrictions. These include stricter limits on residential water use and strongly recommend a limit of 100 litres per person per day. They also include a ban on irrigation, and a 350 litres per day cap on the free basic water allocation for impoverished households, regardless of household size.


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