Neilson added that the fall did not signal an end to restrictions for residents of the nation’s second most-populous city.
“Capetonians must continue reducing consumption if we are to avoid Day Zero. There has not been any significant decline in urban usage. All Capetonians must therefore continue to use no more than 50 liters (around 13 gallons) per person per day to help stretch our dwindling supplies,” the executive deputy mayor added.
Experts are keeping a close eye on daily consumption in a desperate bid to avoid the disaster, warning residents tempted to ignore measures that they face fines and the installation of water-management meters if they do not comply.
The movement of Day Zero to mid-May offers Capetonians some hope as historically, the rainy season should have arrived by then.
“This is a welcome decline in water usage and gives Cape Town and some of the other municipalities hope but importantly, we need to get our consumption down to 450 million litres per day to prevent the remaining water supplies running out before the arrival of winter rains. We cannot accurately predict the volume of rainfall still to come, or when it will come,” Neilson said.
A slow-burning catastrophe
Typically, winter cold fronts driven by strong westerly winds bring replenishing rains to Cape Town. But the past few years have been anything but typical.
“An expansive area of high pressure situated in the Atlantic Ocean is acting as a barrier to these weather systems,” CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam says. “As this high-pressure system strengthens and expands, it pushes rainfall away from the Western Cape.”
But residents say they are already struggling to keep with existing restrictions. Photographer Melissa Delport, who lives in Seapoint, Cape Town, is one of those who has been queuing at a local natural spring to collect water.
“We have reduced showers to twice a week and we shower in buckets with a face cloth,” she told CNN. “We are reusing water where we can and using gray water to flush the toilet.”
“I am privileged enough to have a car and drive to natural springs coming off the mountain to go and catch water in drums,” Delport said.
“Although there are queues it could be worse. Many of the poorer communities have it much worse and have for a long time.”
What happens if ‘Day Zero’ comes?
Should the government declare “Day Zero” has arrived, faucets will cease to deliver water until the skies open and rain falls.
On this day, residents will be further rationed to just 25 liters (6.6 gallons), which they will be able to collect only from one of 200 stations. To put that into perspective, each collection point will have to accommodate the water needs of 20,000 Capetonians.
But questions dominate everyday conversation around the city’s wider strategy for the general population, which authorities are yet to publicly outline. Given this stark outlook, there are concerns neighbors could turn on each other and fears of unrest erupting the longer the crisis continues.
CNN’s Judson Jones contributed to this report.
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