Skip to navigationSkip to content
LAST DROPS

South Africa will deploy military to guard Cape Town’s water once the taps are shut off

Collecting water at a tap in Cape Town.
AP Photo/Anwa Essop
Some Cape Town residents are already making trips to natural springs.
  • Zoë Schlanger
By Zoë Schlanger

Environment reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Cape Town, a city of 4 million, is set to run out of water on April 12. “We have reached a point of no return,” Cape Town mayor, Patricia de Lille, said in an address last week.

The South African city plans to cut off access to the municipal water supply on that date—73 days from now—after which the city will open up 200 water-collection points where people can pick up their ration of 25 liters (6.6 gallons) a day per person. Individuals will be able to pick up water for family members who can’t make it to a collection point, up to a maximum of 100 liters (26.4 gallons) per individual. Queuing for water will become part of Cape Town daily life.

The city is preparing for the water queues to turn into a security threat. Municipal authorities plan to open a disaster-operations center to prepare for “Day Zero,” according to ABC News, and the national police and military will be assigned to stand guard at water-collection sites.

“Health services‚ traffic officials‚ metro police as well as SAPS [South African Police Service] and SANDF [South African National Defense Force] members will be present at the collection points,” said JP Smith, the local official who heads government safety and security efforts‚ according to South Africa’s Sunday Times.

Up to 70 security forces will be assigned to each “high risk” water collection site, with 20 security forces at each site deemed lower risk, Smith said.

Each collection point will be open for 12 hours a day, though Smith said hours will be extended if there is still a queue for water at the end of the day.

“Queueing will be unpleasant but we handle our disasters smoothly in the city,” Smith said. It is, however, unprecedented for a city the size of Cape Town to run out of water.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.