This past April, I was blessed to be able to go on #baecation in South Africa. The minute we landed at Cape Town International Airport, I saw this huge mural of an ad that read “Water is Life.” Throughout Cape Town you will see signs urging people to be mindful of their water usage. In case you didn’t know, Cape Town has been suffering from a “once-in-300-years drought” over the last three years that has worsened due to climate change.
Residents of Cape Town have been living with strict water consumption restrictions, about 50 litres (or 13 gallons of water) per person per day. According to data provided from the U.S. Geological Survey website, on average, Americans use about 80-100 gallons of water per person per day. Imagine just being allotted 13 gallons of water per day to bathe, brush your teeth, cook, hydrate and do anything else you need to do that involves water? This means, Cape Townians are being told to use less than 10% of what we use on a daily basis.
Once mundane tasks like washing your hair and washing dishes are now considered a luxury, forcing Cape Town residents to buckle down and make drastic life changes so as to conserve the water they have.
The drought is so serious that there is a day on the calendar when essentially free flowing water will stop. It is called Day Zero.
“Day Zero,” is when the city will shut off taps to homes and businesses because the reservoirs have gotten dangerously low. The original day zero would have been in a few short weeks from now on May 20th but has been pushed back to August 2019.
But on this day, more than four million people will not have access to water in their homes for an entire day and they might even have to stand in line surrounded by armed guards to collect rations of drinking water.
Shit’s crazy, right?
Especially given that Cape Town is one of Africa’s richest cities. How can this be happening in a city so rich?
Unfortunately, Cape Town is actually just one out of many cities globally, that are suffering or will suffer from a similar situation.
Water is in fact life, but you don’t have to look too far beyond our own backyard to see how lives are being put at risk.
Especially when the risk isn’t caused by mother nature but rather by human greed.
While in Cape Town, I was hyper aware of my water usage. I cut down my showers significantly from 20 minutes to 5 minutes or less. I wouldn’t leave the tap running while I brushed my teeth, instead I would pour water into a cup and only used up that amount. I used a bucket in our hotel to reuse water for things like shaving, etc..
I mean, I was NOT about to be that tourist who uses up the locals’ water only to leave them behind with nothing. Back in the states, I’ve started cutting down on my water usage more than normal. It’s easy to forget the struggles people face when they’re not happening to you on a daily basis.
I left South African thinking: how can we work to ensure everyone, both inside and outside of the U.S., has and keeps access to fresh, clean water?
Water is life and it’s a human right.
The Radical Maestra