As some of you may know, Cape Town is running out of water. The local government has quite literally stated that in less than 100 days, they may have to turn off the taps entirely and water will be rationed out at designated outposts.
Here’s the thing folks, South Africa is a relatively developed economy (by global standards) and they had plenty of time to see the coming issues. Yet everyone is talking about this like it came out of nowhere.
It’s absolutely ridiculous and exemplifies why I prep. Humans are unbelievably stupid in assuming that bad stuff will never happen to them, and if it does, that the government will have a magic solution to the problem.
As is obvious to you and I (and now the residents of Cape Town), the government is for the most part reactionist. When something bad happens, they react.
The reason governments are reactionists is because handling a crisis well garners you far more votes than spending money preemptively to prepare for the worst. People don’t want the worst to happen and so assume it won’t.
If a local government spends a truck-tonne of cash on water usage reduction technology and the local population never experiences a drought (as a consequence of this investment), they will at best think the government is overly paranoid/protective and at worst will think they are wasting money.
Then there’s the other option, letting a crisis get bad enough, then swooping in last minute and “saving the day.” This latter option makes more sense from governments who love to be seen as the hero considering it means more votes.
This is why you cannot trust those in charge to fix your problems, there is nothing it in for them until it is too late.
And as we are seeing with Cape Town, the government has lots planned. But this won’t help them right now, though it may be enough to help in the future.
Now you may think that this is a micro issue in a small part of the world, but the reality is that Cape Town is a major city with 3.7 million residents.
Think about it folks: 3.7 million people with no direct access to water.
This is what the shit hitting the fan looks like.
Currently, water restrictions are being enforced to the tune of “50 litres of water daily per person.” But that’s not a lot – not when you have to take showers, do the dishes, run the laundry, etc.
Lille (the Mayor) said 60 per cent of residents are “callously” using more than the current limit, and that the city, “can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them.”
This is going to turn into a cluster-fuck. The rich will be able to live more or less unaffected by simply purchasing water (at a premium) from third party sources, but the poor will feel the brunt of this. And when you have so many people with so much fear in such a small area… Well, I’ll let you do the math.
The reservoirs are running dry, the shallow pool of water (30% capacity) cannot be used entirely for water – it just isn’t potable. Furthermore, as the pipes are not used, the risk of damage to the infrastructure increases dramatically (dry pipes = cracks, and cracked pipes are useless pipes). The government has stated that day zero is likely to be April the 21st. With severe water restrictions and a sense of dread leading to riots in the poorer areas, I can only hope that the darker side of human nature stays silent. But as history has taught us time and time again, in times of duress – the wicked prosper.
To sum it up;
The mayor holds a hammer: If reservoir levels drop below 13.5 per cent capacity, she is vowing to turn off the taps altogether. That will force people to come to one of 200 municipal sites to collect a maximum daily ration of 25 litres.
At the current rate of water usage, “Zero Day,” as it is being called, will arrive April 21. Cape Town would earn the dubious distinction of becoming the first major world city to run dry.
Residential customers remain the biggest problem. The city has been begging them to change their habits for months, to little avail.
I don’t often write about world events on the blog because I prefer giving raw information and letting everyone make their own minds up without my blatant bias, but I feel as a community we need to see this tragedy that is already impacting the lives of millions of people and yet, that could have been avoided with some common sense.
I hope we all learn from this. As a community, I am sure seeing events like this will embolden our resolve to be as independent as we can. But for society in general, I wager nothing will change and history will keep repeating itself.
Share your thoughts, what would you do if something similar happened in your city?
martin miller says
Hi there i live in south africa not far from cape town in a large city and our water is worse off than cape town unfortunately there has been so much corruption in our country and money that is supposed to go to water and sanitation does not get used properly,we also have old infrastructure it is really bad.
Thomas Xavier says
Have you taken any actions to weather this crisis? Any tips you can share?
Hope it all works out for you mate.
The potable water issue has been known about and discussed going back to 1962 at least.
This problem keeps getting kicked down the road because there are no easy solutions.
Thomas Xavier says
Aye, but encouraging endemic growth without the infrastructure to support it is exacerbating this crisis. Desalination plants and additionally artificial reservoirs and/or catchment technology would have been useful. A good blueprint to follow would be Singapore- they have almost no water and recycle to an extreme degree- very impressive.
This is a horrible situation, but, since the ANC took over SA it’s been nothing but mismanagement and economic problems. I too fear the refugee hoards unleashed if the taps are turned off. I especially pity the EU as they will bear the brunt of any mass migration. The 2 of us average 25 gallons per day each. I’ve started to look at cutting back usage here. Like you stated, the haves will get their water, the have nots will go without. Looking at prepping, I need to get more water storage as just three weeks worth stored isn’t/won’t be enough.
Thomas Xavier says
I imagine that forced relocation to other parts of SA is more likely. Definitely a huge issue with corruption in the area sadly. We will have to watch and see what happens- hopefully learn from all of this.
I think you are being a little to nice to the powers that be. It is preventable, but as you pointed out the system does not allow for a solution. Who picked the system? We my think because we are constantly told we picked the system, but it was carefully selected for us just like the candidates that we get to decide between, giving us a sense of empowerment. In any case I guess the why is for the most part irreverent for this discussion. The fact that it can and is happening should be noted.
I think at some point however, it is important to look at the why and not just get to the bottom of it, but expose it, put some light on it, so it can be solved once and for all.
I heard an example, that I thought was excellent and actually ties into this event (IMHO). I live in Germany, where they are having an immigration crises (refugees, they say, but there are no plans to return, so I think immigration fits better). Everyone is talking about what to do with the refugees, but no one, or rather few, are talking about why they are leaving? War tends to cause exodus. What was the war for in the first place? Many believe it was designed to cause the destabilization of Europe and in particular Germany through the refugees. Interestingly I have heard (over a year ago BTW) that the next wave of refugees would be African, and that it would be by the tens of millions this time. So I find this article interesting for more than the prepping content, as it sounds to me like the beginning of pattern. It would certainly be interesting if these soon to be refugees end up in Germany as well.
Thomas Xavier says
We will have to see how the situation plays out, clearly the management of refugees/migrants in the EU has been problematic. I would have preferred we build, monitor and secure a safezone within these hotspots instead of allowing the mass importation of individuals who don’t have the necessary economic skills to integrate within our modern societies. But sadly the situation we have currently will have to be dealt with, if not today then tomorrow.
Excellent piece with some great points! I live in Hawaii where we frequently have hurricanes that miss us…and every time, a massive number of people are unprepared and have no idea how to prepare. Then there’s the whole fiasco about our ballistic missile false alarm that just recently happened…hey, you should do a piece on that!
Thomas Xavier says
Thanks Danny! I considered writing about the missile crisis as it was happening but it was so heavily covered by the MSM that I thought it would be redundant. I may scribble my thoughts on missile defence/legacy system issues in the future though.
Kent McManigal says
My area depends on the Ogallala Aquifer, which is getting low enough that many wells around here have gone dry and there are dozens of families (no one actually knows the exact number, because it’s not something anyone wants to face) locally without running water on a long-term basis. They all want government to “do something” to save them.
There is a reservoir that was built 50+ years ago (about 85 miles from here) with the intention of supplying water to the area. But unless it starts raining more, this is like depending on your toilet tank as a permanent solution to the well running dry. And it has probably been 6 months since it rained here.
Honestly, when you have more people in an area than the available water will support, maybe the area isn’t a good place to live. I don’t have the answers.
Thomas Xavier says
Sounds like a pretty grim situation Kent, are you doing anything to prep with those concerns in mind? Any advice for any of us?
I have always lived in a water rich area, so the idea of running out is both foreign and terrifying!
It did happen in Santa Monica, CA. In the last two decades. The City owned wells outside city limits. Over time, there was salt water intrusion in at least one. The big problem was that the water supply was contaminated by gas stations. Water had to be trucked in. Cost tens of millions.
Santa Monica officials said the court action was taken after attempts to work with Shell Oil and Chevron to clean up the Charnock Well Field two years ago fizzled.
City Atty. Marsha Moutrie said negotiations broke down in January in a process aimed at coming up with a method for the cleanup.
Moutrie said the $200-million cleanup price tag is an estimate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Craig Perkins, the city’s environmental and public works director, said various technologies will be studied to determine the best way to sanitize the seven wells. He said that a trial will probably determine which companies are directly responsible for the underground leaks.
You get elected to office by promising a job, hope and a place in the lifeboat better than the other candidate.
Thomas Xavier says
“You get elected to office by promising a job, hope and a place in the lifeboat better than the other candidate.” is an excellent way of putting it mate. I wish people saw how self-serving politicians are but the media’s habit of focusing on partisan issues is galvanising the citizenry to the point that its difficult for them to conceive that both sides are parasitic.
Doubtful anything will ever change, sadly.