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For some residents of drought-stricken Cape Town, the prospect of their taps drying out is almost impossible to bear.
For others, the thought of queuing in the hot summer sun for a meager daily ration of water will be a necessary evil to keep their businesses solvent.
But the day, currently set for April 12, has been drawing ever closer, sparked by the city's overconsumption despite repeated public warnings from increasingly panicked officials.
On Day Zero, the normal water supply will be shut off and the taps will run dry.
The city's four million residents will be forced to collect a daily water ration of just 25l from 200 water collection points, not even enough for a two-minute shower in normal times.
With approximately 5,000 families for each water collection point, the police and army are ready to be deployed to prevent disturbances on the lines.
Farrel Cohen, manager of the Metropolitan Golf Club at Mouille Point, near the city's World Cup stadium, said he was "too afraid to even think about" what "Day Zero" would mean for Cape Town.
"Nobody knows what to expect: people run to supermarkets to buy water," he said.
The central business district will likely save a total outage to protect the economy.
But the full impact of a large global city losing its piped drinking water supply is unknown.
Deposits around Cape Town, amid its worst drought in a century, have remained largely unrenewed for more than three years in the absence of significant rainfall and are on the verge of depletion.
People take part in a protest against the way the Cape Town city council has dealt with problems related to water shortages, on January 28, 2018, in Cape Town. (AFP)
Residents are now ordered to use just 87 liters per day, down to 50 liters on February 1, to conserve supply.
A typical shower uses 15 liters per minute, while a standard toilet uses up to 15 liters per flush, according to WaterWise, a South African water awareness campaign.
Cohen, whose streets have suffered from water restrictions, said the realities of life after "Day Zero" will be difficult to understand.
"We have not been notified, it is a bit unknown," he said.
Businesses are feeling the pinch, too. In addition to having to deal with costly limits on water use, tourists from home and abroad have been dissuaded from visiting South Africa's “Mother City”.
"I know a lot of foreign visitors who canceled their trips due to conditions," Cohen said.
The city has almost halved its consumption from roughly 1.1 billion liters per day in 2016 to 586 million liters per day.
But every day that Capetonians use more than 500 million liters, “Day Zero” advances.
And the drop in consumption is hurting the city in other ways with lost revenue from water bills pushing Cape Town's coffers.
Nikita Elliott, the manager of the "Cape to Cuba" oceanfront restaurant in Kalk Bay, a tourist hotspot outside the city center, is plotting how to keep the business running using only water from the sources.
"It will be a big additional task and I also think it will be very expensive, but business is business, we will have to do everything we can to stay afloat," he said.
'Arrogant and shortsighted'
The restaurant has stopped serving tap water and instead offers bottled water from Durban on the opposite shore.
It has also put up signs encouraging guests to only dump solids, installed a lockout alarm to prevent pipes from breaking, and now washes dishes by hand instead of machine washing.
"We have come all the way," Elliott said.
"Many business owners and ordinary citizens have taken this into their own hands and are doing what they can."
Marna Esterhuizen, 40, says she wants the current daily individual limit to be cut in half immediately to avoid the spine scenario.
“I also think the name and shame option is not a bad idea. The water map shows what is happening in some of the richest neighborhoods and that disappoints me: it is arrogant and myopic, ”he said referring to advice. published list of thirstiest users.
"I miss a good long shower in the morning, but now I have a timer in the shower to make sure it only lasts two minutes."
But less than half of Capetonians are adhering to the current limit for daily water use.
"It is quite incredible that most people do not seem to care and are sending us all towards 'Zero Day'," said Mayor Patricia de Lille last week.
She criticized offenders for their "insensitive" behavior and said "Zero Day" seemed "very likely."
Original article (in English)