Cape Town, South Africa’s dire water supply crisis raises concerns in the U.S.

Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Miami among cities at risk for water shortages.

March 21, 2018 |

Facing the worst drought in its history, Cape Town, South Africa is in danger of running out of its water supply. The crisis has officials in the U.S. pondering whether cities here could one day face a similar fate.

Cape Town has been monitoring the number of days to Day Zero, when the city’s supply would run dry, and has advised all residents to limit water consumption to 50 liters (13.2 gallons) a day. There are estimates that by 2025, two-thirds of humanity could be struggling with water shortages.

Three major U.S. cities—Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Miami—are considered high risk for a water shortage crisis. Los Angeles has been challenged by water shortages for much of its history, and a 2014 drought led city officials to instruct residents reduce water usage by 25% in 2015.

With temperatures rising, the mountains around Salt Lake City will receive less snow, which would decrease the flow of water from snow melt. In Miami, the problem is rising seawater leaking into, and contaminating, fresh water supplies above and below ground.

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