Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cape town: the city without water

Capetown, South Africa averages about 31 inches of rainfall per year, not that far from Baltimore's 42 inches per year, but a severe drought and recent city expansion is bringing a real crisis to the fore. The city is literally about to run out of water: their supply is currently set to expire on April 22nd. How will they respond? Well, by raising the price of water. Since charging people for an essential good can be seen as evil, the price will be paid in time: people will have to go stand in line with buckets or whatever to get their daily ration of water.

Fortunately it's not that bad yet, but this is looking like another low year for rainfall on the US West Coast as well. Many places are at very low percentiles for the amount of water that has fallen so far this "Water year" (October-September), including central California where percentiles are in the single digits. As I recall, last year wasn't bad, bringing to end a 5 year drought, but one good year doesn't solve every problem....

1/24 UPDATE: more information from Nature. The day they run out of water- Day Zero- has moved closer, to April 12th. Impacts range from a devastating loss of agriculture to an inability to host tourists to an inability to do medical studies because the staff needed to do the work will be forced to spend hours in line waiting to get their daily ration of water. As one scientist quoted in the article says, "This is very, very serious."

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