Long lines of South Africans collect water daily from a natural spring pipeline in a suburb of Cape Town, illustrating the harsh impact of a drought that authorities say could force the closure of most taps in the city in just over two months, an occasion known as "Day Zero." The prospect that large sections of Cape Town might go without running water has induced anxiety as well as resolve among its nearly 4 million residents, the AP reports. It has attracted scrutiny from scientists and city managers worldwide; this would be the world's first major city to go dry. "There are a lot of people who have been in denial and now they suddenly realize this is for real," said Shirley Curry, who waited to fill a plastic container with spring water from one of several taps outside a South African Breweries facility in the Newlands suburb.
The spectacle of people scrounging for water could become more common as "Day Zero" approaches in Cape Town. While the city urges people to restrict water usage, many living in poor areas already have limited access to water. Cape Town's leaders have instructed residents to use only 50 liters of water daily from Feb. 1, down from the current 87-liter limit. "Day Zero" is projected to arrive on April 12 but some fear it could come sooner, while others hope it won't happen if rationing works and rains eventually come. If "Day Zero" arrives, many people would have to go to collection points for a daily ration of 25 liters. Taps would continue to run in hospitals and provisions would be made for schools. Some central and downtown areas could be exempt from the cut-off for the sake of tourism and business. Read the full story here for more on the causes of the water shortage.