The Theewaterskloof Dam, a key source of water for Cape Town, South Africa, is at historically low levels.
It’s tough to know exactly how much water we each pull from the tap every day, but a single toilet flush can drain around nine liters (more than 2 gallons), and a 5 minute shower uses about 47 liters (12.5 gallons). Even a typical pot of coffee will set you back another liter or two, so it’s easy to see how quickly water usage can add up from a quick morning routine.
To help people track how much of the municipal resource they’re using every day, Cape Town has created an online water consumption calculator. Some residents have installed their own tanks to collect water for gardening and are using buckets to conserve shower water.
The city is also trying to find new water sources, since dams that supply the city are hovering at just about 30% of their storage capacity. But the efforts may not be enough to keep residents hydrated. The coastal city says it will be forced to turn off the taps when the dams reach 13.5%. At that point, they’ll switch to a system of daily water allotments that people will have to collect at checkpoints around town, according to the Times.
Cape Town isn’t the only city in water trouble. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that by 2025, two thirds of the world will be dealing with water shortages as droughts become more frequent in a warming world.
Scientists warn that cities across Asia could also get hit with big water problems by 2050 if drastic measures aren’t taken there. In addition to climate extremes like drought and environmental stressors, population growth is creating challenges around fresh water consumption. As more people in densely populated countries like China and India move out of poverty, that puts additional strain on water resources as well.