Further water restrictions in Cape Town

Water situation dire as Cape Town braces itself for Day Zero.

Cape Town's four million residents have been limited to using a daily maximum of 50 litres of water per person, in the city's most severe water restrictions to date.

The move comes as Cape Town braces itself for a "Day Zero" scenario, when the city runs out of water, following a prolonged drought over the last year.

Police are enforcing fines for those in breach of the restrictions while several cases of water being tapped illegally - for subsequent sale - have been uncovered by the city's water and sanitation department.

The official date for Day Zero - based on current water consumption rates and lack of rainfall - is 16 April.

In addition to introducing restrictions, the city is drilling for water at Cape Flats and is racing to construct three seawater desalination plants, one of which - Strandfontein Pavilion - is nearing completion and will begin producing an estimated two million litres of water a day in March.

However this is quite literally a "drop in the ocean" when compared to the city's current daily requirement of 540 million litres - reduced from the original 1,200 million litres a day thanks to a a public awareness campaign and a reduction in water pressure.

The city's reserviors are currently down to about 30 per cent of capacity and once they drop to 13.5 per cent, Cape Town's taps will be turned off. This doomsday scenario would affect around one million households but water supplies to hospitals and clinics would not be affected.

Residents would be obliged to queue for a free daily water ration of 25 litres per person at one of the 200 collection points that would be set up around the city.