Cape Town at risk of another ‘Day Zero’ droughts unless gas-emissions are reduced

New Delhi (NVI): The South African city, Cape Town, now has an 80 per cent higher chance of another ‘Day Zero’ drought by the end of the century, if greenhouse gas-emissions keep rising at current rates, according to new research.

The researchers from Stanford University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) used new high-resolution simulations in the study and estimated the role climate change could play in future droughts.

The climate modelling systems used by researchers in the study, was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It showed that in a scenario in which greenhouse gas-emissions remain high a drought as severe as ‘Day Zero’ could occur two or three times in a decade in southwestern part of South Africa.

Earlier in 2018, a drought in South Africa almost caused Cape Town’s taps to run dry, an event known as Day Zero, following which officials have been working to avert further water crises that could put lives at risk and destroy livelihoods in the coming years, the World Economic Forum (WEF) reported.

“In the worst-case scenario, events like the ‘Day Zero’ drought may become about 100 times more likely than they were in the early 20th-century world,” said lead author Salvatore Pascale, a research scientist at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.

At present, around the world, stronger El Nino weather patterns and climate change are bringing harsher and more frequent droughts and already-dry southern Africa has been particularly hard hit, according to the researchers.

Cape Town’s first ‘Day Zero’ was only averted by the city making an aggressive push to conserve water and officials hope that similar efforts can lessen the impact of future droughts in the country’s second-biggest city.

The Stanford study also showed that the 2018 drought was made five-six times more likely by man-made climate change.

Meanwhile, the Cape Town authorities in a statement stated that knowing the risk of drought recurrence, the city is increasing the use of groundwater, building a desalination plant, clearing water-hungry invasive plants and working towards a water reuse scheme.

Furthermore, the study informed that parts of the world with a similar climate to South Africa, like California, southern Australia, southern Europe and parts of South America could face their own Day Zero droughts in the years ahead.

Pascale also said, “I’m sure that many Cape Town residents have forgotten what happened now that lakes and water reservoirs are back to normal.”

“But this is the moment to rethink the old way of managing water for a future when there will be less water available,” he added.

-RJV