Tag Archives: water shortage

Personal Project – Cape Town Water Crisis

Even with the frequently depressing and disturbing visual documentation of climate change's effects on our environment, it's often too easy to turn a blind eye to a crisis occurring when it doesn't affect you.  Julia Cumes took some time between assignments in her former hometown of South Africa, and her striking images ring mental alarms. Perhaps we're safe up here in Portland, Maine, but this is a "prescient look at things to come for other urban areas as climate change and its effects take hold."
 
As someone who grew up in South Africa during a time when Cape Town was considered one of our wetter cities, it was painful to see the cracked, dry mud bed of Theewaterskloof dam, the lines of people waiting to fill up on drinking water at public springs, the dying vegetation and the strikingly empty public swimming pool in Mitchell's Plain where hundreds of local children usually cool off in the summer.
 
Last year, when Cape Town's water sources dropped to critically low levels, the city declared the possibility of a “Day Zero”, when the public water supply would largely be shut off. This would place Cape Town in the unusual position of being the first major city in the world to run out of water. While “Day Zero” has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it. Below are some of my images capturing life in Cape Town and its outskirts during this unprecedented time period.

You can see more of Julia's images, focused on this story and others, at juliacumesphoto.com

Capetonians fill up their water containers at the Newlands spring in a suburb of Cape Town. The spring, whose water is supplied by nearby Table Mountain, has flowed without interruption since record keeping started in South Africa, but has only recently becoming a critical collection point. Because of rising water costs and tight restrictions on municipal water usage, local residents come to the spring to fill up on the clean mountain water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
Capetonians fill up their water containers at the Newlands spring in a suburb of Cape Town. The spring, whose water is supplied by nearby Table Mountain, has flowed without interruption since record keeping started in South Africa, but has only recently becoming a critical collection point. Because of rising water costs and tight restrictions on municipal water usage, local residents come to the spring to fill up on the clean mountain water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
During Cape Towns current water crisis, family outings to fill up on public spring water are commonplace as collection is limited to 25 liters a visit. Families may come to the spring as often as two to three times a week to fill up on water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
During Cape Towns current water crisis, family outings to fill up on public spring water are commonplace as collection is limited to 25 liters a visit. Families may come to the spring as often as two to three times a week to fill up on water they use primarily for drinking and cooking.
The cracked, dry bed of Theewaterskloof Dam-the largest dam in the South Africa's Western Cape water supply system is an indicator of how severe the water crisis is in South Africa's Western Cape Province. The dam, which usually supplies Cape Town and its population of over 4 million people with 41 of its water, is now at critically low levels. Last year, Cape Town announced plans for Day Zero, when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. While Day Zero has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it.
The cracked, dry bed of Theewaterskloof Dam-the largest dam in the South Africa's Western Cape water supply system is an indicator of how severe the water crisis is in South Africa's Western Cape Province. The dam, which usually supplies Cape Town and its population of over 4 million people with 41 of its water, is now at critically low levels. Last year, Cape Town announced plans for Day Zero, when the municipal water supply would largely be shut off, potentially making Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water. While Day Zero has now been pushed off till 2019, the water crisis is still dire and local residents are adapting their lives to deal with it.
As with any crisis, creative entrepreneurs have found ways of making some income from the Cape Towns water crisis. Here, enterprising workers, for a fee, offer to transport heavy water containers from a public spring on Spring Road to residents waiting cars.
As with any crisis, creative entrepreneurs have found ways of making some income from the Cape Towns water crisis. Here, enterprising workers, for a fee, offer to transport heavy water containers from a public spring on Spring Road to residents waiting cars.
A public protest in front of the parliament building on South Africa's Freedom Day on April 27th this year included signs protesting the privatization of water. Ironically, Cape Towns water crisis has been a boon to water privatization with the bottled water industry seeing huge growth in sales and private desalination plants setting up shop on the Western Capes shoreline.
A public protest in front of the parliament building on South Africa's Freedom Day on April 27th this year included signs protesting the privatization of water. Ironically, Cape Towns water crisis has been a boon to water privatization with the bottled water industry seeing huge growth in sales and private desalination plants setting up shop on the Western Capes shoreline.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Monwabisi on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Monwabisi on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Strandfontein on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
One of multiple private desalination plants sets up its temporary structure in Strandfontein on Cape Towns False Bay. The plant, which was erected in a matter of months in reaction to the water crisis and is expected to produce seven million liters of drinkable water per day when it is complete, pulls water out of the ocean 1km out to sea near a popular pool and beach area.
A woman washes clothing in a shallow bucket of water in Asanda Village - an informal shanty town settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many of Cape Towns more poorer residents have pointed out that their communities - where residents don't generally own washing machines, dishwaters and swimming pools - are not the ones using large amounts of water and yet are being penalized more than the wealthier communities where many residents have put in expensive bore holes (wells) and are thus skirting water restrictions.
A woman washes clothing in a shallow bucket of water in Asanda Village - an informal shanty town settlement on the outskirts of Cape Town. Many of Cape Towns more poorer residents have pointed out that their communities - where residents don't generally own washing machines, dishwaters and swimming pools - are not the ones using large amounts of water and yet are being penalized more than the wealthier communities where many residents have put in expensive bore holes (wells) and are thus skirting water restrictions.
A public mural in Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, is just one of many artists responses to the water crisis unfolding. A street art festival in February of this year offered the prompt Nature Doesn't Need Us. We Need Nature to artists to inspire public art centered on the environment.
A public mural in Salt River, a suburb of Cape Town, is just one of many artists responses to the water crisis unfolding. A street art festival in February of this year offered the prompt Nature Doesn't Need Us. We Need Nature to artists to inspire public art centered on the environment.