Cape Town scientists prepare for ‘Day Zero’

As water crisis brews, researchers plan to modify studies and prioritize public health.

by Amy Maxmen
Nature News, 24 January 2018

2 pp. 427 kB
https://www.nature.com/magazine-assets/d41586-018-01134-x/d41586-018-01134-x.pdf

The Cape Town city’s government estimates that “Day Zero” — when Cape Town becomes the first major city in the world to run out of water, as reservoirs dip too low to deliver a potable supply — will come on 12 April. The city is experiencing its worst drought in the past century. And with less than 80 days before taps are likely to be shut off for all but essential services, scientists are scrambling to determine how the crisis will affect their research — and their daily lives. Information about the amount of water that universities will be able to draw from municipal or private sources, and for how long, is almost non-existent. Local researchers are also concerned about how the water crisis will affect their staff and the city as a whole. “Science needs a functioning ecosystem,” says Musa Mhlanga, a cell biologist at the University of Cape Town. “This is very, very serious.”

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