Water Security & World Water Day

In Cape Town, South Africa, residents wait in line at collection points across the city to get their daily ration of 50 liters, or 13.2 gallons, of water. The metropolis is facing a severe drought and Day Zero- the day the water runs out- is rapidly approaching. Originally scheduled for April, Day Zero has been pushed back to July due to the tightening water rationing restrictions. In just months, water became the most precious commodity for locals in the arid landscape.

  Infographic illustrating how you can use 50 L a day like in Cape Town. Photo from CNN

Infographic illustrating how you can use 50 L a day like in Cape Town. Photo from CNN

To put the situation into perspective, Cape Town citizens’ daily water ration is less than most Americans use in an average shower. With the looming deadline, nearly 4 million residents will be restricted to 25 liters, or 6.6 gallons of water a day when they reach Day Zero.

On a smaller scale, Pittsburgh is facing water issues of another kind. While we have an abundance of water, we face exposure to tainted water supplies. Pittsburgh’s lead pipe problem, combined sewage overflow events, and recurring boil water advisories encourage citizens to recognize the importance of safe and clean water.

Earlier this week, on March 22nd, people around the globe celebrated World Water Day, the United Nations’ observation to our most necessary asset. The UN first celebrated World Water Day in 1993 to educate people about water-related issues and acknowledge water as an important resource for all. The water crisis in Cape Town as well as other crises around the world serve as a reminder of the importance of treating everyday as World Water Day.

  Annual water consumption per capita worldwide in 2013 by country in cubic meters. Figure by Statista

Annual water consumption per capita worldwide in 2013 by country in cubic meters. Figure by Statista

So what can we learn from Cape Town? To start, we can acknowledge the importance of conserving water, even when we’re not in the midst of a crisis. Conserving water is beneficial for a number of reasons and can possibly prevent an event comparable to that in Cape Town. As well, it’s a wake-up call for cities to recognize the potential of dwindling water supplies that can stem from a mix of climate change and growing populations. Cities must implement resilience tactics to withstand droughts and unexpected events as we head towards a future with an increased competition for water. Whether this be through rainwater harvesting, greywater systems, green infrastructure, or special water storage, we must prepare for the worst case scenario before we are facing a Day Zero of our own.

Marissa Rollman