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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

Twitter labels tweet from RT implying voter fraud in U.S. elections

Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter on Thursday labeled a tweet from Russian state media outlet RT (formerly Russia Today) that included a video implying widespread voter fraud is plaguing, and potentially delegitimizing, the U.S. election.

Why it matters: It's the first time Twitter has labeled RT's account with a civic integrity label, or a designation used to highlight efforts to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.

58 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.