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12th March 2018
...Continued from Part 1

In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance, the opposition party that runs the city, each have some responsibility for maintaining or administering water. Experts suggest that each made fundamental missteps.

"Both believed that this would be a short-term drought and that things would return to normal at some point," Turton says. "But climate change is a factor now, and it's only begun to dawn on them how much the demand for water will just keep increasing."

For the moment, the region is scrambling to bring new supplies on line. Four new desalination plants are under construction. New water wells are being drilled and a plant that would reuse effluent is being built. Most of those projects are more than half completed.

All but one, however, is behind schedule, as city leaders push to at least get something up and running soon.

"Residents of Cape Town are very surprised by how dramatically the situation has escalated, says Magalie Bourblanc, a public policy analyst specializing in resource management at South Africa's University of Pretoria. "But I think people are realizing very quickly just how bad the situation could be."

Craig Welch writes about the environment for National Geographic.