Quantcast
Connect with us

Australia prepares for ‘Day Zero’ – the day the water runs out

Published

on

It’s not unlike a storyline from a dystopian film about the taps running dry in cities around the world. Except that it may soon be a reality for around a dozen towns in Australia – and scientists say it’s a warning for the rest of the world.

Day Zero, as it’s called, would mark the start of water rationing and the day residential taps are turned off – literally – with large numbers of households and businesses having to go to local collection sites to fetch water.

ADVERTISEMENT

Day Zero is pending in at least a dozen Australian country towns stretching from the northern state of Queensland – known for its sprawling banana plantations and tropical heatwaves – to the state of New South Wales, whose capital Sydney is the country’s most populous city.

Successive droughts and the extra water needed to fight intense bushfires have caused an unprecedented shortage, with these regions now facing the prospect of the taps running out within a matter of months. Water security remains almost non-existent for many rural communities, with 10 towns at risk of running dry in six months if it doesn’t rain and if water infrastructure isn’t improved. The wider consequences have meant that many shops are on the brink of shutting and the desperation has even led to water theft. Temperatures are 10°C above average and 130 bushfires continue to burn in New South Wales and Queensland, which this year is suffering its worst start to the bushfire season on record.

Australian governments have for years stalled on climate action reform despite pressure from voters to make it a policy priority because the country’s economic growth is so tightly tethered to coal-mining exports. That inertia was underscored this week when David Littleproud, the minister responsible for drought and natural disaster, was asked whether he thought human-induced global warming was making bushfires more intense. “Whether it’s manmade or not is irrelevant,” Littleproud told the ABC Radio National program:

Despite flip-flopping days later, the minister’s comments reflect what has been a widening global divide between voters and governments on climate change.

While Australia has long been buffeted by bushfires, drought and floods, it’s the additional impact of global climate change that is making water scarcity, there and elsewhere in the world, a reality.

ADVERTISEMENT

Nor any drop to drink

Australia isn’t the first country to face the prospect of a Day Zero. Brazil’s Sao Paulo teetered on the brink in 2015 as did India’s sixth-largest city, Chennai, in mid-2018.South Africa narrowly averted its Day Zero last year after prolonged low rainfall and a particularly brutal drought gripped the city of Cape TownThe city’s water supply was close to being shut off as its freshwater reservoir hovered just above 13.5 percent of full capacity. Had Day Zero been triggered, it would have been the first instance of a major city in modern times running out of water.

Australia’s looming Day Zero is highlighting the necessity for long-term strategies for water management and for improved cooperation at a global level.

Scientists from the Grantham Institute at the Imperial College in London and the University of Cape Town, who co-authored a paper on Cape Town’s Day Zero, say that climate change will make water shortages more common in cities around the world.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Changing shifts in rain patterns are a major cause of water shortages and, as the climate changes, droughts and heatwaves will be more likely,” explains Robbie Parksresearch postgraduate and co-author of the paper.

“Water is treated as an infinite resource, but it only takes two or three dry seasons to trigger a catastrophic drought – Cape Town is a prime example of that – so there needs to be a huge change in how water is managed.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Too hot to handle

It’s a troubling assessment, given the extreme heat that this year caused devastating bushfires in Spain, Greece and the USA – countries not typically hit by seasonal fires. Heatwaves also set the mercury soaring to record levels in the Netherlands and France, with the latter country’s health ministry releasing statistics this month showing a 1,500 increase in the number of deaths caused by severe heat compared to previous years.

And more heat will mean an increased demand for water, with threats to water security predicted as one of the most worrying effects of climate change.

Becoming better prepared was behind the cautionary message from the World Resources Institute (WRI) in July, when the US-based think tank released its report saying a quarter of the world’s people face “extreme high water stress”.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re currently facing a global water crisis,” said Betsy Otto, director of WRI’s global water programme. likely to see more of these kinds of ‘Day Zeros’ in the future,” she said.

While united, global action on climate change suffered a significant setback after the 2017 US withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord, there is a new energy at the grassroots that gives some reason to hope that change can happen at a more rapid pace. Youth climate activist Greta Thunberg  along with groups like Extinction Rebellion  are piling the pressure on governments, taking their message from the streets to international summits, with organisers of several groups maintaining momentum by planning a climate strike in cities around the world on Friday ahead of a UN meeting on the issue in New York on Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT

What remains unanswered, though, is whether policy changes taken now will be enough to arrest or possibly reverse the damage already wrought. If not, more cities will likely be facing their own Day Zero in the not-too-distant future.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

WATCH: Franklin Graham tells Jeanine Pirro coronavirus pandemic is because of people sinning

Published

on

Franklin Graham blamed sinners for the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic during a Saturday night appearance on Fox News.

Host Jeanine Pirro noted the growing death toll and wondered how God could let that happen.

"Well, I don't think it's God's plan for this to happen," Graham said.

"It's because of the sin that's in the world, judge," he argued.

"Man has turned his back on God, we have sinned against him, and we need to ask for God's forgiveness and that's what Easter's all about," he continued.

"This pandemic, this is the result of a fallen world that has turned its back on God," he added.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Drought causing water shortage amid coronavirus crisis in Chile

Published

on

With historically low river flows and reservoirs running dry due to drought, people in central Chile have found themselves particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Years of resource exploitation and lax legislation have allowed most reservoirs in that part of the country to run dry.

"There are now 400,000 families, nearly 1.5 million people approximately, whose supply of 50 liters of water a day depends on tankers," Rodrigo Mundaca, spokesman for the Movement for the Defense of Water, the Earth and the Protection of the Environment, told AFP.

One of the main pieces of advice to protect people against coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump warns of ‘tough week’ ahead — after the United States surpassed 300,000 coronavirus victims

Published

on

US President Donald Trump warned Americans on Saturday to brace for a "very horrendous" number of coronavirus deaths in the coming days as the total number of global fatalities from the pandemic soared past 60,000.

As confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 300,000 with more than 8,300 deaths, there was some encouraging news in Italy and Spain.

Europe continues to bear the brunt of the epidemic, however, accounting for over 45,000 of the worldwide deaths, and Britain reported a new daily high in fatalities.

There are now more than 1.17 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world and there have been 63,437 deaths since the virus emerged in China late last year.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image