Cape Town heads for 'Day Zero' as water supplies dwindle

It is South Africa's worst drought for almost a century. Credit: AP

The water supply in Cape Town will be cut off within weeks if residents do not start to ration their usage, officials in the city have warned.

April 12 has been dubbed "Day Zero" - the moment the taps will run dry as South Africa battles to deal with its worst drought in almost a century.

Levels of usable water in the dams surrounding Cape Town have been dropping by 1.4 per cent a day, and currently stand at around 17.2 per cent.

When they hit 13.5 per cent - estimated for April 12 - the pipeline will be shut down and the city's four million residents will have to queue up each day for their supply from one of 200 water collection points.

A number of trial water collection points have been set up already, and are popular with people trying to stock up.

The daily ration has been set at 25 litres. A single flush of a toilet uses around 15 litres.

Strict limits on water usage have been in place for months, asking residents to stick to 87 litres a day - but many people appear to have ignored the warnings.

The limit will fall to 50 litres a day on February 1 - but the city's mayor, Patricia de Lille, said she feared they had reached the "point of no return".

"Despite our urging for months, 60 per cent of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day," she said.

"It is quite unbelievable that a majority of people do not seem to care and are sending all of us headlong towards Day Zero.

"We can no longer ask people to stop wasting water. We must force them."