Cape Town Pushes Back Dreaded ‘Day Zero’

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A dried out wicket is seen at a cricket pitch in Cape Town, South Africa, February 11, 2018. Without water, the wickets are considered dangerous to players. All club and school cricket matches has been cancelled as the city attempts to avert a major water crisis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings A plant grows between cracked mud in a normally submerged area at Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town, South Africa, January 21, 2018. The dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water, is currently dangerously low as the city faces "Day Zero", the point at which taps will be shut down across the city. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  A pipe used to pump water lies in the polluted Kuils river in Cape Town, South Africa, February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Sand blows across a normally submerged area at Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town, South Africa, January 20, 2018. The dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water, is currently dangerously low as the city faces "Day Zero", the point at which taps will be shut down across the city. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  The Theewaterskloof dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water is seen from above near Villiersdorp , South Africa, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  The children's section of Trafalgar swimming pool lies empty in Cape Town, South Africa, February 9, 2018. The city has closed many of its public swimming pools and has imposed severe water restrictions in an attempt to avert a major water crisis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Vineyards are seen near Cape Town, South Africa, February 3, 2018. After two years of drought, concerns are growing around agriculture as the city faces "Day Zero", the point at which taps will be shut down across the city as dams run dry. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Newlands swimming pool lies empty in Cape Town, South Africa, February 9, 2018. The city has closed many of its public swimming pools and has imposed severe water restrictions in an attempt to avert a major water crisis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  The remains of a fish lie amongst cracked mud seen at Theewaterskloof dam near Cape Town, South Africa, January 21, 2018. The dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water, is currently dangerously low as the city faces "Day Zero", the point at which taps will be shut down across the city. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Rainwater gathers on plants in Cape Town, South Africa, August 30, 2017. Despite some winter rainfall dams are running dangerously low following the worst drought in a century in the region. The city has imposed severe water restrictions in an attempt to avert a major water crisis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  The Theewaterskloof dam, which supplies most of Cape Town's potable water is seen from above near Villiersdorp , South Africa, February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  A man carries a bucket used to collect water from a small roadside spring in Cape Town, South Africa, February 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Clothing hangs above a communal tap in Khayelitsha township, near Cape Town, South Africa, December 12, 2017. The city has imposed severe restrictions in an attempt to avert "Day Zero", the point at which the dams run dry or have levels too low to use for potable water. Despite some winter rainfall dams are running dangerously low following the worst drought in a century in the region. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Fields of harvested wheat are seen near Cape Town, South Africa, February 3, 2018. After two years of drought, concerns are growing around agriculture as the city faces "Day Zero", the point at which taps will be shut down across the city as dams run dry. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings  Rainwater flows down off Cape Town's iconic Table Mountain, South Africa, September 9, 2017. Despite some winter rainfall dams are running dangerously low following the worst drought in a century in the region. The city has imposed severe water restrictions in an attempt to avert a major water crisis. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings 
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CAPE TOWN, Feb 21 (Reuters) - A tough water-saving regime and the generosity of farmers have given South Africa's main tourist hub welcome respite from a severe drought and helped push back a dreaded "Day Zero" when Cape Town's taps are expected to run dry.

On Tuesday, the city of four million moved its estimate for "Day Zero" to July 9 from June 4 due to a decline in water usage, and after the Groenland farmers association also released 10 billion liters of water from their private reservoirs into the Steenbras storage dam.

South Africa has declared a national disaster over the drought afflicted southern and western regions, including Cape Town, which means the government could spend more money and resources to deal with the crisis.

Cape Town, which attracts about two million visitors each year, wants to become more resilient as the effects of climate change are felt, similar to other dry cities including Melbourne and California.

"We know that while we are going through a challenging time, we are building a world-class green economy that will be a beacon of hope for many places around," said Tim Harris, chief executive for Wesgro, a regional trade and tourism agency.

The chronic drought is hurting visitor numbers and knocking a rare economic bright spot, officials said previously.

According to the South African Weather Service, two of the driest seasons ever recorded for the city since observations started in 1921 happened in the last three years: In 2015 when 549 mm (21 inches) fell and last year - the driest year on record - when annual rainfall totaled 499 mm.

But, faced with severe water restrictions and punitive levies, residents of Cape Town have cut collective consumption by more than half in the last three years, as the city targets a daily consumption rate of no more than 450 million liters.

At the moment, restrictions make it compulsory for residents to use no more than 50 liters per person per day, as city officials look to see out the hot summer months into winter, when Cape Town usually gets rain.

"We must all keep doing absolutely everything in our power to reach the target set by the national department to reduce our urban usage by 45 percent," said Ian Neilson, the deputy mayor.

Already hundreds of Cape Town residents are being forced to queue overnight to stock up on water in South Africa's second largest economic hub and tourism attraction.

However, several desalination plants are planned and together with underground water reserves, are expected to help augment water sources well into the future.

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia, William Maclean)

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