Water worries mount around the world — including in Canada
Population growth and changing climate are putting water supplies at risk
A family negotiate their way through caked mud around a dried-up section of the Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town in January. The dam’s reservoir supplies most of Cape Town’s potable water and is dangerously low as the city faces Day Zero, the point at which taps will run dry and rationing must begin in the city of nearly four million people.
Planning for Day Zero
After a third consecutive year of drought, Cape Town residents have been asked to reduce their water consumption to 50 litres a day. If reservoir levels drop below 13.5 per cent capacity, the taps will be turned off, forcing people to collect a maximum daily ration of 25 litres from one of 200 sites.
A warmer and drier Arctic
Growing populations and climate change are putting stress on water supplies around the world, including in Canada. According to a recent study, Iqaluit may face a water shortage within five years, owing to a growing population in Nunavut’s capital and the rapidly warming climate in the Arctic.
Snowfall in the Rocky Mountains is the source of water for tens of millions of people across North America. “The water from this mountain range flows into the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific and the Atlantic, so what happens here matters for the whole continent,” says John Pomeroy, a hydrologist who has been studying the snowpack for nearly 15 years.
In the past, glaciers provided a reliable source of water that could feed rivers in times of drought, but the warming climate has shrunk icefields in places like Glacier National Park in Montana, which contains the headwaters of the Milk River in Alberta.
A river run dry
During a drought in 2001, the Milk River ran dry. Last year, farmers in the southern Alberta area were told to stop irrigating their crops after Aug. 3.
Saving the rainy days
Raising the Dead
Water levels in the Dead Sea, between Jordan and Israel, have been dropping by more than a metre a year. Jordan, already suffering from depleted reservoirs and a lack of rainfall, hopes to replenish its water supply by taking part in project with Israel to desalinate water from the Red Sea and pump it into the Dead Sea.
Water at Risk: Read more stories in the series
- Divided to the last drop: Inside Cape Town’s water crisis
- ‘It’s not impossible’: Western Canada’s risk of water shortages rising
- How Cape Town is weaning itself off water
- Vancouver’s water to get scarcer, pricier as climate changes
- One of the driest places on Earth struggles to safeguard its most precious resource
- Nobody knows what’s next for Cape Town’s water supply
- What living on 50 L of water a day looks like
- Read all the stories in the series