The Western Cape Province, where Cape Town is, has been in severe drought for three years. The water shortage has been amplified by the population boom here; more than a million new residents have arrived in the city in the past 15 years. The city’s desperate attempts to build desalination plants and install new groundwater pumps may help, but these solutions seem to be the equivalent of building an extra lane on an already jammed highway. The underlying causes of the shortage are likely to continue to stress the system. Other cities in drought-prone regions should pay close attention.
…. There are many people who still aren’t doing enough to curb usage, but in a city of high inequality and concentrated wealth and privilege, there’s a leveling that’s happening. Behaviors have changed quickly and on a broad scale. The city has published maps that indicate which households are above or below the recommended water consumption level. It’s now commonplace to see an unflushed toilet in a fancy restaurant, per guidelines that advise, “When it’s yellow, let it mellow.” I find this motivating; it’s evidence of a collective consciousness and effort.
Apparently, authorities knew of the impending crisis but did little to avert it — at least according to the Cape Times back in 1990.