Cape Town officials are bracing residents for the potentiality of a city without water. On “Day Zero” the city could be forced to shut off its taps. Day Zero, which was initially projected for mid-April, has been pushed back to May 11. Heightened awareness, official regulations, water systems projects and reduced use bought Capetonians more time to respond.

Ian Neilson, executive deputy mayor, reminded the community that many of them share a water source. Climate change, he reasoned, can also keep water availability in flux. “Last year, we had abnormally low winter rainfall, and we cannot assume that this year will be any different. Even if we have been given a slight reprieve at this stage, we are likely to be facing a late and dry winter.” 

Worldwide, water issues abound. As many Americans remember and acknowledge, the Flint water crisis called people to action. Doctors provided care, researchers studied the issues, attorneys pursued criminal punishments, journalists consistently reported and everyday activists reminded us that human beings deserve and need clean and available water.

Against a global backdrop of water concern, The Pursuit, a University of Melbourne publication, published expert perspectives on water issues in Australia and how collaboration can help Cape Town and other similarly situated communities in the world.

“You need diversity of water supply to get security,” hydrology expert and professor Andrew Western said. “It’s worth spending money to have really good plans in place for when crisis situations are emerging. With Cape Town, this is probably where it has fallen down.”

Another perspective? Shifting to renewable energy. “If you switched to 100% renewable energy generation, in the future we could save the same amount of water that we currently use in agriculture,” Seona Candy, a University of Melbourne post-doctoral scholar of sustainable food systems, said.

A different professor argued that without institutional responses, “You will get shadow markets.” According to Professor Jon Barnett, “Water barons move in to control the allocation of water as they would drugs or illegal tobacco and alcohol during periods of prohibition.”