Can you imagine having a “Day Zero” approaching? A day when the water will run out? Water is a resource many people take for granted, viewing it as something that will always be there — yet in South Africa, Cape Town is facing a deadline when its reservoirs will go dry. In the fight against Day Zero, city officials have planned to store emergency water at military installations, promoted strict water conservation practices and have also made it illegal to fill pools, water gardens or wash cars. In May, there had also been talk about towing icebergs from Antarctica to South Africa as a means of solving or at least extending the deadline to Day Zero.
Cape Town could very well be an omen for cities worldwide in regards to how climate change and booming populations might impact their own water supplies. The National Geographic noted in February that several cities are already feeling the strain, and those cities are not all found within developing countries; for example, Melbourne, Australia, is expecting to run out of water in little more than a decade.
The U.S. is no stranger to droughts, with southern California having one of the longest running droughts in recent memory — stretching from 2012 to 2017. And when the going got tough, state, county and city officials became innovative: crafting policies to reduce water usage, reverting back to natural plantings, installing water-saving equipment, utilizing gray water, among other methods. These steps will likely filter down to other cities and towns across the country, especially as water sources change — and not always because of drought. South Florida, after all, has experienced some of its waters becoming saltier and more polluted as tides rise.
In addition to serving as good custodians of our resources, water utilities in the U.S. are also facing aging infrastructure — a concern that came into sharp focus with the Flint, Mich., water crisis. With miles of pipes, it is a constant work in progress for many municipalities as feature writer Elisa Walker highlights in her article on page 18, focusing on Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Duluth, Minn., efforts to update their water infrastructure.
We are also addressing energy — another must to municipal operations — in this issue of The Municipal. As energy demands are only set to grow, cities are more and more exploring renewable energy not only for cost savings but to be environmentally friendly. Additionally, feature writer Nicholette Carlson will profile Georgetown University Energy Prize winner, Fargo, N.D., which involved its entire community in seizing energy savings.
In a time of great flux and increasing demand, cities will undoubtedly be pursuing further innovations when it comes to both water and energy. But time and time again, cities have risen to numerous challenges and will undoubtedly continue to do so.