This disappearing Cape Town reservoir is a preview of climate nightmares to come
In less than 100 days, Cape Town — a South African city of about 4 million people — could run out of water, in what officials call “Day Zero.” A view of the crisis from space shows the city’s massive reservoirs drying up after just three years of drought — a preview of the nightmares climate change could bring, unfolding right now.
Cape Town relies on six main reservoirs for its drinking water; together these reservoirs can store 230 billion gallons (about 870,000 megaliters) of water. After back-to-back years of severe drought, these reservoirs hold just 26 percent of that total — a level that is likely to continue dropping until the rainy season starts in May. The time-lapse, captured by the Landsat-8 satellite and published by NASA’s Earth Observatory, shows Cape Town’s largest reservoir, Theewaterskloof Dam, drying to just 13 percent capacity.
It’s a terrible warning to places like California that the time to start modernizing ageing water infrastructure is before a crisis — not during one. You only have to watch that reservoir drying to a puddle to see why.