Dreading ‘Day Zero’ as California drought resumes

By in Press Enterprise on February 15, 2018

By The Editorial Board

On hearing that Day Zero just got pushed back a couple of months, the casual news consumer might be forgiven for confusing this with a bulletin from the Doomsday Clock scientists who predict the likelihood of worldwide nuclear devastation.

But no, that metaphorical clock is still set at two minutes to midnight.

Day Zero is the coming time when Cape Town, South Africa will essentially run out of municipal water for its 4 million residents — and for the visitors, too, who have long flocked to the beautiful, cosmopolitan city with a Mediterranean climate startlingly like our own.

Like a certain other beautiful, cosmopolitan region we could name, Cape Town is in the midst of a seemingly endless drought — punctuated by a few hard rains during which there is very little capacity to capture the water as it heads to the sea. Thanks to climate change, the annual rainfall there — never a huge amount in the first place — has diminished sharply in recent decades. But there has been plenty of political bungling, too, and a remarkably short-sighted inability of local, regional and national government agencies to use engineering innovation to lessen the parched blow to people and to agriculture.

There are lessons for sure for Southern Californians to learn from this looming dry-as-dust scenario on the other side of the world. The good news is that the predicted Day Zero was pushed back from sometime in April to sometime in June precisely because citizen conservation efforts are paying off. But those efforts are pretty awful to ponder for those of us in California who thought last year’s mighty downpours might signal an end rather than an anomalous blip in our drought. When Day Zero arrives, Cape Towners have been told, residents’ taps will simply be shut off. They will have to […]    

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