Graph showing the water shortages in Cape Town

This graph shows the condition of the major reservoirs serving southwestern South Africa. Cape Town, located in that region, is set to run out of water on April 21. Note the progressive drop in the level of the Theewaterskloof reservoir, the main water supply for this city of 4 million. / Courtesy


Picture this: On April 21, you go to your kitchen sink and turn on the faucet. But nothing comes out.

You flush your toilet. But the tank doesn’t refill.

You long ago stopped watering your now-dead lawn. You won’t see it green again anytime soon.

Hotels, restaurants — even schools — are closed.

You drive or walk (you’re unemployed, due to the water shut-off) to your assigned “municipal water station,” where you collect the meager 6.6 gallons that you’re allotted for that day. Armed police and soldiers oversee the distribution of the precious liquid and ensure effective crowd control.

Water Shortages not a fictional scenario

Unfortunately, this nightmare is not the plot of a Hollywood movie depicting some future dystopian state whose inhabitants are growing increasingly desperate.

On April 21, 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, is set to make history: It will become the first major city in the world to run out of water. The main reservoirs supplying water to this city of 4 million have less than a 90-day supply left.

(Editor’s note: The City of Los Angeles, Calif., has 4 million residents, according to the May 2, 2017, issue of The Los Angeles Times. The current population of the City of Miami, Fla., is about 454,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.)

Just 200 water stations for 4 million people

So picture L.A. without water. And with only 200 water stations to serve its population. That will be Cape Town on April 21, if projections hold true. Residents of South Africa’s second-largest city refer to that date as “Day Zero.”

Cape Town officials say they will “turn the taps off for all but essential services once (reservoir) capacity drops to 13.5%,” according to the Jan. 29 Time magazine article “Cape Town is almost out of water.” The story’s author, Aryn Baker, reporting from Cape Town, explains, “reservoirs usually can’t be drained completely, because silt and debris make up the last 10% of reserves.”

The city has set a limit on water use: 23 gallons per person per day. But less than 40 percent of citizens are complying. After February, residents will be cut to 13 gallons.

Florida has its own water shortages

For decades, the Sunshine State has suffered water shortages — whether due to droughts or to man-made causes — that have caused a variety of problems. For example, the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay has been devastated by a reduced flow of freshwater from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin in Georgia.

This has led to a long-running “water war” lawsuit with Georgia, with Florida contending that the Peach State uses more than its fair share. For the latest on that court case, which the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear, visit

Water is essential to life. So we must find a way to use water — and all other essentials such as agriculture, animals and minerals — sustainably. In coming weeks, Florida Food & Farm will detail various threats to sustainability — in this state and around the world.

How is Florida’s water supply faring? Visit Then click on Florida, shown on the map.