Cape Town crisis highlights need for greater water conservation

The water levels are dangerously low in Cape Town, South Africa, according to The New York Times. 

It is predicted they will hit “Day Zero” by April and “taps in homes and businesses will be turned off until the rains come. The city’s four million residents will have to line up for water rations at 200 collection points,” The New York Times reported.

As citizens of Western New York, this type of natural resource crisis is almost unbelievable to us. Water is something we take for granted every day. The harsh reality, however, is that other individuals are forced to ration and live without water, and it is imperative that we become more mindful of our own resources.

“The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors,” according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, the water Americans use is split between 24 percent for the toilet, 20 percent for the shower, 19 percent for the faucet, 17 percent for washing clothes, 12 percent for leaks and 8 percent for other needs, according to the EPA.

Our dependency on high amounts of water usage is clear and what is concerning about the Cape Town situation is that it was not preventable. Cape Town “is known for its strong environmental policies, including its careful management of water in an increasingly dry corner of the world,” The New York Times reports. Due to excessive droughts, however, the city is now on its way to having little to no water at all for its inhabitants.

It is essential that we take an active role in helping places like South Africa that do not have the seemingly basic resources we have here. That being said, the U.S. is no stranger to “water stress,” as there is “widespread stress in much of the Southwest, western Great Plains and parts of the Northwest,” as reported by Global Change.

Moving forward, individuals should be careful of their water consumption and take small steps to limit usage. This way, we will conserve our own water resources and prevent human-driven resource stress.

There are even ways college students can make a difference: taking shorter showers (bathing for only four minutes requires 20 to 40 gallons of water), turning off the faucet after you wet your toothbrush and using the dishwasher and washing machine only with full loads, Earth Easy recommends. 

The profound impact these small changes could have on water supply is incredible. The more people who are aware of the importance of saving water and making a change, the better our resource management will become. 

We must use the circumstance in Cape Town to acknowledge our privilege and make meaningful changes in our water usage to help do our part in this global crisis.