Cape Town Faces Water Crisis

Cape Town, a South African metropolis of nearly 4 million people, could run out of water this May. It’s called “Day Zero.”

The local government will stop the flow of water to homes and businesses–meaning no water will come out when the tap is turned. 

When Day Zero arrives, municipal fountains will provide a daily ration of water to anyone who is able to collect it.  The ration is 25 liters, or less than one-tenth what the average American uses per day. 

There are just 200 fountains planned for nearly 4 million people.  Armed guards will keep order. 

How did we get here? A severe drought has dried up the local reservoirs, and city residents have been unwilling to change their habits and use less water.

Unfortunately, this crisis does not come as a surprise. The city was warned about changing rainfall patterns 10 years ago. Rainfall is becoming less predictable as our climate changes, and Cape Town is almost entirely dependent on rainwater for its municipal supply. 

For cities like it, the situation in Cape Town may be part of a new normal.

Kevin Roussel, executive director of Catholic Welfare and Development, which is helping coordinate water relief, lives in Cape Town. 

He says, “Scientists tell us that climate change might have made our Cape Town water crisis more likely. 
I believe in my community's resilience. But I hope our struggle convinces others to change their ways. It's a crisis for Cape Town, but also an opportunity for all people to take our Catholic teaching into practice."

As Catholics, we are charged with protecting God’s creation. This includes decades of Catholic teaching on our call to stop climate change. Cape Town, sadly, is among the human faces of the tragic choice to ignore the call to protect our common home. 

We invite you to respond in prayer. Pray for those who are affected by this crisis and for all those who continue living in ways that contribute to climate change.

Creator God, thank you for the blessing of water.
Thank you for the rain cloud that followed the Israelites,
the well water the Samaritan woman gave Jesus,
and all the ways in which water nurtures our faith. 

As our sisters and brothers in Cape Town face a day without water,
please give them peace.
Give a sharing heart to those who have
and strength to those who do not. 

Please help us face the consequences of our choices,
and to see with compassion
those who suffer for the way we live. 

We ask this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

You may want to pray this prayer: 

PHOTO CREDIT: SuSanA Secretariat


PHOTO CREDIT: Oxfam East Africa