Don’t Wait Till the Well Runs Dry

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My friend Ben just got back from a three-week trip to his home in Cape Town, South Africa. He told me it was hard to be there, to see the parched landscape, and sadness in peoples’ eyes. If you haven’t already heard, the city is about to run out of water.

Cape Town has a population of four million people. Six reservoirs, that fill from rain, provide all the water for the city and the surrounding suburbs. But it hasn’t rained since 2015. And the reservoirs are dangerously low. The city is projected to run out of water in 2019.

Let me say that again. The city is projected to run out of water by 2019.

Since February 1, residents have been told not to use more than 13.2 gallons of water a day. To give you an idea of what that means:

  • High efficiency washing machine: 15-29 gallons
  • Eight-minute shower: 17 gallons
  • Old toilet: 3.5 gallons per flush
  • New toilet: 1.6 gallons per flush

It’s hard to imagine that there will actually be a day in the very foreseeable future when residents will turn on their taps and NOTHING will come out.

I’ve never been to Cape Town. It feels very far away. Their water problems feel far away. But they aren’t. Cape Town has a similar climate to Los Angeles—where we have also been water weary for many years. If it could happen in Cape Town, it could happen in Los Angeles.

And yet. I haven’t changed my water use habits. I’ll out myself here—I take ten minute showers, let the water run when I wash the dishes, and flush after every pee. In the end, that adds up. But, I irrationally tell myself, no one is telling me to conserve.

The trusting, believing, wondrous child in me is waiting for leaders to tell me to cut back, and for the super heroes to fly in and save the day.

But then I stop and look around. I don’t see ‘leaders’ leading or super heroes on the horizon. That means it’s up to me. And you.

The people of Cape Town rallied and reduced their water usage by 57 percent! They took the lead.

Step Up. Your voice and wisdom are needed. Bring what you do best. Don’t wait till the well runs dry.

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