Feb 23, 2018

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Brett Quillen writes on the current water crisis in Cape Town

The planet finds itself mired in progressively muddier and muddier waters concerning literal issues of water. Flint, Mich., continues to reel from insufficient infrastructure and Cape Town creeps ever closer to Day Zero (the coinage a doozy of a doomsayer, if I have ever seen one). It is important and heartening to notice the encouraging strides toward solving and reconciling such issues—however small the steps and however dire the climate may appear.

It is necessary to take solace where it can be found, no matter the circumstances surrounding it. On Feb. 11, 2018, Day Zero in Cape Town was pushed back from the looming date of April 16, 2018, to May 11, 2018, following a significant reduction of water consumption in the agricultural sector. The cynical reading of this development would cite only the industry’s exhausted allotment of water as reason for the procrastination of Day Zero’s arrival, and that such a progression is only a delaying of the inevitable. While this may be true to an extent, such a delay must be most welcome for Capetonians, a much-needed inch of respite amidst the swirling chaos.

However, Capetonians must embrace their agency in the matter, as well. Urban consumption has not seen a substantial reduction that would further delay the potential disaster, and the citizens must use these small victories in powering the effort toward the Big Win. On Feb. 9, 2018, rain fell for the first time since Jan. 22, not a devastating window, but the reaction to only a few millimeters of rainfall is notable. People left restaurants just to witness the downpour while others captured the water in buckets for use at home. Social media was rife with those documenting the event. It is this same enthusiasm for occurrences outside our power that must be channeled into human action.

The Cape of Good Hope juts out of the southernmost reaches of Cape Town and marks the geographic location where sailing paths veer east following arduous treks along Africa’s western coast. In the midst of such troubled times, not just in Cape Town but throughout the world as more water crises inevitably arise, a dose of this cape’s namesake must be balanced with concrete action, a synergy of the industrial and individual, if we are to keep disasters of survival at bay. This is where technological breakthroughs big and small, such as those outlined throughout this issue, lay the groundwork for the plodding, macro march into the future.

About the author

Brett Quillen is associate editor for WWD. Quillen can be reached at [email protected].