RECALCULATING

Cape Town’s drought doomsday clock has been pushed back, raising questions about its accuracy

Quartz africa
Quartz africa

Cape Town’s Day Zero, the day when the city’s taps are turned off, has been pushed out all the way to July 9, from April 16 to May 11. That should be good news, city officials now risk coming off as alarmist.

“Day Zero is a very real concept but it’s not inevitable,” said Xanthea Limberg, a member of Cape Town’s mayoral committee in charge of water said in a press briefing.

After Day Zero citizens will have to line up for water at designated distribution points. Calculating Day Zero takes into account maximum evaporation (based on temperature and wind) and existing agricultural and urban use. The current more optimistic view is based reduced usage in the agriculture section.

Until now, city officials’ messaging has centered on the impending doom of Day Zero, including an unintentionally terrifying mascot. The new date coincides with Cape Town’s winter rainfall season, meaning it could be pushed back even further, and possibly eroding trust in the Day Zero model.

“It wasn’t about trying to in any way mislead the public but it was about giving an honest assessment in that point in time,” said Limberg, saying citizens’ “dramatically” reducing their consumption in the last four weeks also helped.

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