Two-minute showers. Empty swimming pools. Bans on washing cars and tending to lawns. This is the harsh reality for residents of Cape Town, a city in the midst of its worst draught in history.
South Africa's growing population, dry climate, and outdated dam system are all contributing to the unprecedented water crisis. Extreme weather conditions spurred by climate change are also playing a role, according to the city's Mayor, Patricia de Lille. "Climate change is a reality and we cannot depend on rainwater alone to fill our dams," she told CNN.
Cape Town's government is currently looking into new sources of water, such as underground aquifers, and asking citizens to save the little water they do have left. Starting next month, residents and visitors will be required to use less than 13 gallons of water a day (for some context, the average American goes through 88) or be charged a hefty fee. Repeat offenders could be prosecuted by the government.
These strict restrictions on water use are meant to stave off "Day Zero,” when reservoir supplies will dip below 13.5 percent and taps in households and business will run dry. Barring major changes, this moment could come as early as April and last as long as 3-6 months, according to the WWF.