Western Cape farms

'Day Zero' - lessons learned from Cape Town's water crisis wake-up call

The three-year drought that culminated in the "Day Zero" slogan that characterised Cape Town internationally as the first world city to come within a hair's breadth of running out of water, is not something of the past.

As the effects of climate change seem to accelerate around the globe, what have we learned from a catastrophe narrowly avoided and what lessons does the experience hold for other cities?

RELATED: No Day Zero for 2019 if appropriate water restrictions are maintained

This is the focus of Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought, by science writer Leonie Joubert and Gina Ziervogel, associate professor at the University of Cape Town's (UCT'S) African Centre for Cities.

Ahead of the book's launch on Tuesday evening, Pippa Hudson invited the authors to discuss their findings with a live studio audience.

Joubert highlights the fact that responsibility for water cannot be assigned to one particular person or body.

RELATED: A silver lining to Cape Town's water woes

It turns out that you've got national government responsible for some aspects of the system, some is provincial, some is the City and then also your water users have a responsibility as well - not just as consumers of water but as active citizens who are holding government accountable.

Leonie Joubert, Co-author - 'Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought'

She says although the City was criticised for adopting what some viewed as the alarmist term 'Day Zero', it served to galvanise Capetonians virtually overnight by making them aware of how severe the crisis was.

They knew what to do, and there were very clear communication processes, teaming up with business, using the media etc, to tell people how to cut water use.

Leonie Joubert, Co-author - 'Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought'

And what about the blame game that entered the conversation at the time?

While acknowledging that it is difficult to predict long-term climate change scenarios, Joubert believes measures can be put in place nonetheless even if these possible situations are not certain to happen within only a few years.

The authors say Cape Town's drought served as a wake-up call to understand how a shortage of water is not simply an environmental issue, but a complex one that affects all aspects of society.

As cities around the world try and think about what it means to adapt to climate change... we need to think about how we put in place measures to deal with that because it can have significant impacts.

Gina Ziervogel, Co-author - 'Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought'

The reality is that's it's quite hard to put in place measures now that help us to adapt to future change. Us as humans don't like doing that.

Gina Ziervogel, Co-author - 'Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought'

Now we've had that wake-up call and there is a lot more effort being put into thinking about what does it mean to put in place measures to deal with this kind of thing in the future.

Leonie Joubert, Co-author - 'Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought'

The launch takes place from 17:30 in The New Lecture Theatre, Residence Road on UCT's upper campus.

For more on this important book, take a listen:


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