Cape Town water
Cape Town, South Africa has experienced a drought for the last three years, leading up to what officials are calling ‘Day Zero,’ or the day the city will turn off a large portion of its tap water and turn to rationing the remaining water among citizens. However, water shortage issues began as early as 1995 with little action from the city to remedy the situation.

Water Crisis

What happened in 1995 that caused a crisis over two decades later? The population of Cape Town began increasing and has steadily increased by over three-quarters of its previous population. Fortunately, this multiplication alone was not the cause of the water crisis; rather, it was population growth paired with little increase in water storage.

The city failed to compensate a growing population to its water usage, and while this has made a significant impact on the amount of water in Cape Town, the city has still been able to maintain reasonable water levels despite a lack of added water storage facilities.

This success is primarily due to plentiful rainfall during the monsoon seasons, which may also be why Cape Town has previously failed to increase its water storage for so many years.

Restrictions and Rations

Unfortunately, a drought began in South Africa in 2015 that severely limited the amount of water available to citizens, especially those in Cape Town.

The drought brought to light the water storage issue for Cape Town officials who began urging citizens to conserve the remaining water. They initially asked that each citizen use approximately 87 liters of water before decreasing the amount to a mere 50 liters, or just over 13 gallons, daily.  

The South African government has created a rationing system to be implemented when the water levels decrease to a low enough level. The day this occurs is the day referred to as ‘Day Zero.’ However, in the meantime, the most energy is being placed into reminding citizens to continue to reduce their water usage.

Applications and Online Services

In light of the water crisis, the University of Cape Town has developed a series of cell phone applications that will aid in water conservation. The first is a free application called ‘DropDrop.’

DropDrop allows users to track water usage in real time, helping citizens ensure that they are staying within the city’s new water restrictions. The app is especially useful in areas where regular access to the internet does not exist due to the application’s offline nature after initial download.

Among the services created for Capetonians during the water crisis is an organization, Picup. The group started with the goal of quickly shipping water to Cape Town residents, and now allows Capetonians to order bottled water and receive it to one’s home within 24 hours.

The water can be purchased in two order sizes, with the smallest being 30 liters with an affordable price tag of around 176 Rands, or approximately $13.

City Initiatives

Among the initiatives implemented to conserve water in Cape Town is the initiative started by Cape Town officials that monitors household water usage. The initiative also awards certificates and name recognition on the city website for households showing a 10 percent or higher decrease in water usage.

The city also gives daily updates on water levels for surrounding dams in order to encourage Capetonians in their conservation efforts.

Moving Forwards

Despite the outstanding circumstances Cape Town has faced over the last few years, the future looks bright. With a strong community making huge lifestyle changes to conserve water, the city’s water basins are filling back up and allowing citizens to be a part of a community survival story.

The water crisis in Cape Town has proved the city’s growing wisdom and trendsetting environmental responsibility. This growth has not only set an example for the world to follow, but it has also been the first to prove that any inescapability, even one as drastic as ‘Day Zero,’ can be overcome.  

Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Most Water-Scarce Countries
Water is one of the most vital ingredients for all life, yet many people across the globe still live without the assurance of safe & clean water. Here are the five most water-scarce countries, and five groups working to help them.


As conflict in Yemen has escalated to bombings, ground fighting and fuel shortages, 19.3 million citizens have been left without access to water. This has caused an outbreak of diseases such as cholera and Acute Watery Diarrhea, especially in the country’s capital, Sana’a. As people continue to be cut off from basic necessities by the conflict, the need for water becomes increasingly dire.

Who’s Helping: UNICEF.
In response to the crisis in Yemen, UNICEF has increased its efforts within the country’s borders. The organization has provided fuel to local water corporations in order to reestablish the water reserve. Additionally, UNICEF is also providing fuel to assist in ridding the streets of waste and creating more sanitary cities. If that were not enough, toilets and water points have also been repaired at over 300 schools. Water tanks and temporary toilets have been constructed in the most rural areas of Yemen, giving communities and numerous displaced families the vital resources they so desperately need.


As a nation consumed by the desert, water in Libya is continually scarce making it one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. The country sees very little rainfall each year and is forced to rely on an ever-dwindling supply of groundwater to both irrigate the land and nourish citizens.

As demand for water grows, groundwater supplies cannot last, especially as many coastal aquifers are infiltrated by seawater and become salinized.

Who’s Helping: The Great Man-Made River Project.
To combat this problem, the Libyan government launched The Great Man-Made River Project in 1984. This endeavor is an enormous engineering project designed to supply water from desert aquifers to more populated coastal regions. Although construction is ongoing, the project has already had a massive impact on the country as people in need can now access water. However, the life of the project is unknowable (as it depends entirely on how quickly the water is pumped) and the aquifer is a non-renewable source of water.


It is no surprise that Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries on the planet, as it has one of the lowest levels of water availability on earth.

The nation has struggled for years to provide water to its citizens, and as the Syrian crisis has now caused an influx of refugees, there is not enough water to sustain the dramatically enlarged population. As an agrarian society, the lack of water causes all aspects of life in Jordan to come to a screeching halt.

Who’s Helping: USAID in partnership with the government of Jordan.
Since 2000, USAID has invested over $700 million towards restoring Jordan’s water supply. The initiatives put in place assist the Jordanian government in developing a more advanced water infrastructure, decreasing water loss and conserving the little water available.

Western Sahara

Situated on the northwest coast of Africa, Western Sahara is officially considered a non-self governing territory, though Morocco has laid claim to the land. The hot, dry desert land sees infrequent rainfall, and water is increasingly sparse.

Due to the fact that the land is continually plagued with sovereignty issues and Western Sahara is not an established nation, there is little infrastructure that would improve water supply.

Who’s Helping: The Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).

MINURSO was established in April of 1991 with a purpose of monitoring a ceasefire with Morocco and allowing Western Sahara to choose to be integrated into Morocco or become independent. Western Sahara and Morocco have failed to come to an agreement yet, but MINURSO still persists.

The group has implemented various measures to improve water and sanitation in the area and continues to monitor the security of the region. However, as conflict between natives and Moroccans persist, safety concerns keep other organizations that can help from entering the territory.


Djibouti is another one of the most water-scarce countries in the world and — not unlike the other countries on this list — is an arid desert. With only 0.3 cubic kilometers of renewable water resources in the entire country, Djibouti is unable to irrigate the majority of the land or provide adequately for citizens.

Ironically, the country also suffers from severe flooding that has caused millions of dollars in damages. What little structure the country has for maintaining water supplies is destroyed by the intense floods.

Who’s Helping: World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GDFRR).
Since 2007, both the World Bank and GDFRR have helped Djibouti create and sustain a water infrastructure. A donation of $3 million was used to establish a project that manages water resources in rural areas. Additionally, the groups seek to help Djibouti better prepare for disasters by improving weather monitoring systems, updating emergency plans and establishing early warning systems for both floods and droughts.

As the most water-scarce countries on the planet continue to fight for a basic necessity, these five groups will continue to make lives better through the power of clean water.

– Sarah Dean

Photo: Flickr

Cities That Will Run Out of WaterOver 70 percent of the world’s surface area is covered in water. However, the majority of the world’s poor, who number about three billion, live in areas absent of clean water. Most of the earth’s water is saltwater, but there are still means to purify it for drinking and cooking purposes.

According to UNICEF, women may spend between 30 minutes to eight hours a day searching for water. The average walking distance for women in Africa and Asia is 6.0 km (3.7 miles) to walk and carry the water for their families. The following are all cities that will run out of water soon without proper attention.

  1. Cape Town, South Africa: There might be a large-scale shutdown of tap water this summer. Mayor Patricia de Lille laments that residents have not heeded to advice to reduce consumption. If national consumption exceeds the dam capacity, there will be a total shutdown this April. This is referred to as “Day Zero.”

    Solution: Large-scale desalination plants along the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean.

  2. Sao Paolo, Brazil: Brazil’s largest city was recently devastated by droughts. The Cantareira Reservoir is now a cracked and parched dirt field. This is a result of reduced rainfall and increased demand for water by the unauthorized settling of residents in nearby areas.

    Solution: Restoring degraded forests; this will prevent soil erosion, floods and allow for plants to store the water naturally and recycle it as a watershed.

  3. Bangalore, India: This city cannot ignore the water shortage any longer. The local demand far exceeds the available cubic meters of safe water. Bangalore has a reputation of possessing the most inefficient water pumping and distribution network in all of Asia.

    Solution: Repair the rampant leakage in the corroded, 100- to 200-year-old piping system, and improve the efficiency of the distribution system. Water is plentiful in Bangalore, but a modern distribution mechanism will ensure it evades being among the cities that will run out of water soon.

  4. Beijing, China: China is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s population, but only has seven percent of the world’s freshwater. To make matters worse, what little water it has is unsafe for drinking due to pollution. Furthermore, the Chinese government has authorized the construction of oil refineries in areas where water is scarce, such as the Xinjiang province.

    Solution: Recycle more than half of its water, which would be on the same standard as developed European nations. With this development, Beijing can strive for a living standard of cleaner water instead of being among the first cities that will run out of water.

  5. Cairo, Egypt: The Nile is almost all of the country’s source of water. A city of 20 million people, and rapidly growing, does not fare well with a fixed water share. Some farmers have even been forced to irrigate using sewage water.

    Solution: Currently, the Egyptian government is urging people to move to surrounding cities whose water sources are detached from Cairo. This will reduce the water stress on the city and prevent further stress on new desalination plants exclusively for the city of Cairo.

Better planning and management of water sources are only possible once wealth increases and corruption is eradicated. Eliminating undue bureaucracy is a difficult step, so it is important to approach each of these cities’ challenges on a needs basis. It is necessary to understand that water is not only a basic human need but also a basic human right.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Water Solutions in Jordan Also Fuel Diplomatic Progress
Scientists and officials worldwide project that shortages of safe, potable water will be one of the biggest global problems of the 21st century. As the world population continues to expand, water shortages have the potential to drive conflict and to stress systems of regional power. In areas where peace and stability are already tenuous, anxieties about access to safe water threaten to upset these fragile balances.

The Middle East and Water Insecurity

The Middle East is a focal point for potential conflicts about water insecurity. Fortunately, nations in this generally arid region are investing in solutions to the vital problem. The Kingdom of Jordan, for example, is turning a few unconventional solutions to gain water security for its citizens.

Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project

The cornerstone of developing sustainable water solutions in Jordan is the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance Project. Alongside desalination and gaining access to unusually deep aquifers, the Read-Dead project, as it is commonly known, is hailed as a “perpetual” solution to water supply in Jordan. The program has the ambitious goal of connecting the landlocked Dead Sea with the Red Sea, the large body of water separating Asia from Africa.

“The national water carrier project is a mid-term solution to the country’s water crisis, but the desalination of Red Sea water under the Red-Dead project is the country’s long-term solution to water scarcity,” said Omar Salameh, from Jordan’s Water Ministry.

Continuous Supply of Water for Jordanians

Once complete, Jordanian officials will be able to resupply the Dead Sea nearly continuously from an oceanic source. Along with modern desalination methods, this achievement will unlock a nearly continuous supply of water for the arid, rapidly growing country. Despite other immediate efforts, the Red-Dead project is the capstone of a suite of sustainable water solutions in Jordan.

The project also stands to have important diplomatic results for the region. Besides the relief in tensions that can come from one nation in the region having better water security, the Red-Dead project stands to benefit other nations besides Jordan as well. Israel and the Palestinian territories border the Dead Sea also, and the Sea has been losing volume for decades. With the solidarity that can come from sharing a common resource, sustainable water solutions in Jordan could have inordinately positive impacts on regional relations as a whole.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change and Water Scarcity
It seems nearly impossible to understate the global importance of water. In the age of climate change, water scarcity is rising at levels predicted to impede sustainable development and slow progress against poverty for years ahead. However, better preparing for climate change and water scarcity can redirect water to a source of development.

As a result of interconnected issues pertaining to climate change, the world is expected to experience a 66 percent decrease in water availability by 2050. Ultimately, climate change negatively impacts every facet of the water cycle as it creates drought, uncertain weather patterns, increased natural disasters and other phenomena. Climate change is predicted to send new areas into drought and exacerbate already vulnerable areas. The greatest losses in water availability are likely for the Middle East, East Asia and much of Africa.

Climate change’s impact on water availability impedes food production, as seventy percent of global water use is devoted to agriculture. Without enough water to meet the rising demand for food, expected to be 60 percent higher than today by 2030, this spikes food prices and worsens food scarcity. For Sub Saharan Africa, food prices are expected to rise by 77 percent by 2080 as a result of climate change, compared to a worldwide average increase of 17 percent.

Water scarcity caused by climate change also wreaks havoc on economies, especially ones that are still developing. This is largely due to the fact that water is vital to sustaining development for health, incomes, properties and agriculture. These factors have the potential to generate economic downturn. Many regions that were already water-insecure face a six percent decline in GDP by 2050 as a result of climate change and water scarcity.

Ultimately, these interconnected issues can bring about conflict between nations over resources and water allocation. Water scarcity also spurs increased waves of migration to water-abundant locations. Most conflicts are expected in places with large social inequities, especially in the developing world.

Despite the fact that all people require water security, climate change and water scarcity especially impact low-income populations. Not only are developing nations most at risk of climate change, but insufficient resources make it difficult to cope with climate stressors. Poor water availability also exacerbates improper sanitation and safety in drinking water. This disproportionately threatens health and equality for marginalized populations.

But what can be done to impede the impact of climate change on water availability? The World Bank explains that ensuring water is used most efficiently is crucial to fighting water shortages, especially in dominant sectors such as agriculture. Meaningful changes are possible by drastically investing in climate-smart equipment and infrastructure around the world. These changes work to sustainably end pollution cycles while conserving resources.

Maybe most impactfully, changes in governmental policies are crucial; these can act as insurance plans against worsening climate stressors. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim explains that “countries can enact policies now that will help them manage water sustainably for the years ahead.”

Ultimately, making use of the world of available tools redirects water back to a potential for prosperity.  Richard Damania, an economist for the World Bank, explains that “by allocating even 25 percent of water to more highly-valued uses, losses decline dramatically and for some regions may even vanish.” Instead of seeing negative growth from lessened water, some economies can predict a six percent increase in GDP if they sustainably develop water usage.

Water is a tool for lifting people out poverty and lessening the global impacts of climate change if the world makes sufficient use of proper tools. And although the drastic progress against water scarcity still needed today may be costly, the World Bank epitomizes that when it comes to water, “the costs of inaction are far higher.”

Cleo Krejci

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in TaiwanThe water quality in Taiwan is slightly below standard, and the region is plagued by water shortages. Here are some key pieces of information for understanding the state of the water quality in Taiwan.

According to an article in the Taipei Times, conserving water is a major challenge in Taiwan, especially with annual droughts, floods and limited rainfall. Data from the president’s office and the Water Resources Agency revealed that Taiwan residents typically use about 250 liters of water each day. Water companies and suppliers filter water from reservoirs to provide consumers with clean drinking water.

In order to provide the residents of Taiwan with clean drinking water, without implementing water rationing, the government could encourage rainwater collection and rainwater recycling systems, according to the article. Water rationing is a concern because it could lead to major economic losses in the country.

Water in Taiwan often contains significant levels of silt and needs to be filtered. In general, it is recommended that water in Taiwan be boiled before consumption. Many residents have water filters for their kitchen faucets or have invested in a water filtration system to improve the water quality in their homes. These appliances can improve both the taste and the health of the water.

According to the water board in Taipei, the water in Taipei is treated to be safe to drink. For tap water, the Taipei water department specifies that in respect to odor, water should be less than one threshold odor number (TON). A data collection in 2015 revealed that the water quality in Taiwan was at three TON.

Additionally, samples of water from Taiwan revealed higher than standard levels of turbidity and color. While the water quality in Taiwan needs to see improvements, the main threat to water in the region is a general shortage of it.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr