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“Day Zero” water crisis looms in Cape Town

Global water supply draining

Imagine a day without access to water. No easy flip of the faucet, no simple cup of coffee, no thoughtless flush of a toilet—nothing. As one of the resources that are taken for granted by many, the global issue of water sustainability has increased significantly. According to the United Nations, by 2050 global water supply is expected to decrease by 50 percent. The weight of this statistic is beginning to show in some locations globally with Cape Town, South Africa being one of the first major cities anticipated to run out of water.

Photo credit: Bobby Jones • CU Denver Sentry

Calling the doomsday for water supply “Day Zero,” nearly four million residents in Cape Town will not have access to running water. Cape Town was previously known for its conservative and educated water conservation policies, such as constant maintenance of pipes to fix leaks, which contribute to 14 percent of indoor water loss, according to National Geographic. In 2015, Cape Town won an international award for its conservation policies. Yet, inevitable disaster followed when a three-year drought started the demise of the water supply.

As a western, high-altitude and landlocked state, Colorado is in an interesting position for water sustainability. Known as the “Headwaters State” because of the many major western rivers that rise in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado has the privilege of being the first recipient of much of the water in the west. The Colorado Water Institute reports that nearly 80 percent of Colorado’s water supply comes from snowfall that contributes to the storage of water in reservoirs and watersheds. Yet with all the privilege that Colorado concerning its natural water supply, there is still a need for consciousness about sustainability and responsibility.

Initiative and consciousness begin with the people of a city or state to work together to create change and develop knowledge. Stephen Jefferson of CU Denver’s Sustainability Club is working toward creating change in a larger community. Majoring in International Studies and minoring in Global Sustainability and Development allows Jefferson to have a comprehensive perspective of 21st century sustainability issues. As the president of CU Denver’s Sustainability Club, some of the initiatives include implementation of low-flow toilets and the decrease of plastic usage on campus. When asked about what the core of modern sustainability is, Jefferson said, “In this day and age we are an overpopulated world. We can’t sustain this individualistic way of thinking; there is a need to promote the understanding of social sustainability.” In response to the water available in Denver and on the Auraria campus, Jefferson said, “Having more static systems that are capable of letting water flow at a pace that communities require is more sustainable, as it allows water to be used as needed rather than wasted.” For those interested, Jefferson encourages students and said, “Reaching out to the organizations on campus, particularly AHEC Sustainability, and taking on leadership positions to connect with organizations can promote change.”

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