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cape of good hope

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Cape Town may have conserved enough water to avoid running out this year.

The South African city received record-low rainfall in 2017. That, paired with a three-year drought that climate change may have made worse, forced Cape Town to take drastic steps to avoid Day Zero — the day that millions of taps run dry.

City officials first projected Day Zero would arrive in March, but later pushed that date to April, then July. On Wednesday, city officials announced that Day Zero may not come at all this year. That’s thanks to the efforts of Capetonians, who managed to cut their water consumption in half.

In early February, the government instated a cap on daily water usage: 13 gallons per person. (For comparison, the average American uses 100 gallons of water a day.) Capetonians flushed their toilets less, took infrequent showers, and recycled wastewater.

As a result, the city’s combined water supply never dipped below 13.5 percent capacity, the level at which authorities would have had to cut off access for three-quarters of residents. Current levels are still at an alarming 23.6 percent, but the crisis has been avoided — for now. If Cape Town sees another dry winter, it might be in for a Day-Zero scare again next year.