This year didn’t start so pleasantly for South Africa, more precisely, Cape Town. The country is quickly running out of water, because of Cape Town’s three-year drought, the worst historically, making it hard to supply fresh water to 4 million people.
There are many problems that led up to the water crisis in South Africa. One of these problems was the drastic climate change. This has affected water supplies, as rains that used to supply the country of water have been happening infrequently. Cities are thinking about restricting the water use in communities because, for example, in Durban, a city in South Africa, the dams have lowered by about 20 percent when comparing it to the levels at the start of 2010. In addition, according to reports, 35 percent of the cities water is stolen or redistributed illegally. All the city’s reservoirs are below 26 percent of capacity, and presently, the city’s largest reservoir, the Waterskloof dam, is a stretch of dead trees and a small river.
Preventive measures have already been put into action throughout the country. Water rations have become mandatory, and halved, to just 25 litres a day. In addition, the city is quickly trying to implement alternatives suggested by specialists. Day Zero is the day everyone’s dreading, it is the day when tap water will be shut off, the day in which dam levels hit about 13.5%. On this day, only 200 water sites will be available for everyone, meaning it will be extremely rationed. This idea was introduced to focus everyone’s attention on managing water carefully by reducing usage. Another preventive method that is taking place is the construction of desalination plants and the harvesting of fog to add to the water supply. This fog would be collected from the many peaks around Cape Town and trap wet ocean winds, forming a microclimate at the desert’s edge.
Many problems have arisen due to the water shortage. Citizens wait in line to get water and fill huge containers from various taps, called public distribution points. Furthermore, many in informal settlements, are facing even worse conditions, like limited water sources and low sanitation. The government is warning citizens against price gauging, meaning when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. From a more general perspective, the country is expecting a downturn from two important sectors: tourism sector and the region’s water-intensive agriculture and wine industries. This could damage South Africa’s economy profusely and only add up to the already consuming problems.
We can’t know for sure if water will cause wars in the future, but we can prepare ourselves. Beyond 2022, federal intelligence agencies say that the use of water as a weapon of war or terrorism will become likely, especially in places like South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Water is the central resource to all human activities, therefore, if water becomes scarce, no state will let their supply be compromised and will go to war to protect their access to it. According to Aaron Wolf, a geographer at Oregon State University, there has been no interstate wars fought directly over water for thousands of years. This fact, although surprising and quite positive, should intensify our efforts to understand and acknowledge the conflicts water could bring and how to build a compromise necessary to keep the peace between every country if water ever becomes a concern.
Our country, Peru, should be paying special attention to this issue. The Peruvian coast, and particularly Lima, is, according to some studies, the second driest capital in the world, hardly receiving rainfall, following Cairo. Only two percent of the water resources in the country are located in coastal areas. Most of our water comes from the Rio Rimac and two other rivers in the Andes. The concerning matter is that people aren’t aware of the water scarcity, water pollution or global warming problems, leading us to the inevitable; a water crisis. Currently, more than 1 million people have no access to potable water in Lima because of the increasing migration and lack of infrastructure to redistribute equal amounts of water throughout the city. Experts warn that increased demand, along with climate change, will cause a severe water shortage by 2025.