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A cycle cart of water cans in Chennai, India. Photo: Atul Loke/Getty Images

A dangerous combination of hot and dry weather, poor water management and rising demand is leaving cities such as Chennai, India, and Harare, Zimbabwe, without water for days on end.

The big picture: The pressures on municipal water supplies are likely to worsen with the effects of climate change. Cape Town, South Africa, narrowly averted its "Day Zero" last year, but cities in 17 other countries classified as high stress could soon face their own water crises.

Where it stands:

  • Overuse and drought have dried up the 4 reservoirs serving the 9 million residents of Chennai, India's 6th largest city, and the annual monsoon barely eased the shortage. Since mid-July, a daily train has delivered 2.5 million liters of water from a dam 125 miles away, yet many taps have still gone dry.
  • The 2 million people of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, turn to shallow wells and ditches to supplement the water piped in once a week. Of the city's 4 reservoirs, 2 are dry and the other 2 are so polluted by raw sewage and industrial waste that their water must be heavily treated before piping. A shortage of chemicals has led to a decommissioning of 1 water-treatment plant and inadequate supply from another, as well as an uptick in waterborne diseases.

Between the lines: Weather alone is not to blame.

  • Chennai's natural rainwater collection systems and aquifers have been completely neglected. Deep-well drilling by industry and agriculture has gone unregulated, and the government's recent attempts to encourage rainwater harvesting have met with limited success.
  • In Harare, decades of underfunding have led to crumbling infrastructure, leaky pipes and widespread water theft.

What's next:

The bottom line: Without significant investments in plugging leaky pipes, improving agricultural efficiency, harvesting rainwater and mandating conservation, 45 cities — home to 450 million people — could see their taps dry up by 2030.

Tanvi Nagpal is the director of the International Development Program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

11 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.