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Cape Town's "Day Zero" is a bellwether of global water crises

Cape Town residents filling water jugs from pipe
Cape Town residents line up to refill water bottles. Photo: Morgana Wingard / Getty Images

With reservoirs already extremely low after a punishing drought, Cape Town is now projected to run out of water as early as July. The city of 4 million has implemented drastic conservation measures, restricting residents to 50 liters (13 gallons) of water per day, around 15% as much as the average person in the U.S.

The details: Cape Town’s usage caps mean foregoing everyday comforts — hand-washing clothes and dishes, flushing the toilet once per day and of course leaving lawns to dry out. These measures aim to see the city through the final two months of the dry season.