Cape Town will run out of water in 137 days
But Christians say there is no need to panic
With Cape Town on the cusp of being the world’s first major city to run out of water, Christian leaders maintain that residents do not need to panic.
The date of when the South African city’s reservoirs will become critically low – “Day Zero” – continues to be pushed back, thanks to water-saving measures. The latest prediction for the day that taps will be turned off and residents must queue for water is July 9.
“You realise as never before that water is absolutely essential for life.” – Mims Turley
Day Zero remains ominously close, a “scary” situation to be living with day to day, according to Mims Turley of Bible Society of South Africa.
“You realise as never before that water is absolutely essential for life,” explains Turley. “Without water, life is doomed.” Such a simple but dire summary has Cape Town’s authorities and residents gripped by trying to avoid a humanitarian disaster. Farmers near to Cape Town have been donating water from dams to help alleviate the crisis, while residents are only to use less than 50 litres of water per day from their taps.
Turley is upbeat, though, about how to approach Day Zero. “As Christians, we can affirm that there is no need to panic,” says Turley, who isn’t denying the painful reality of needing water. The potential for disease outbreak, financial burden, and rioting have been flagged as Day Zero outcomes. But Turley believes that such a time of crisis can cause people to “want the assurance that God is holding them in the palm of his hand and they need not fear the future.”
This thirst for security could lead Capetonians to the Bible which Turley believes “is our answer to all the challenges we face. It can be a particular source of strength to Capetonians in their current crisis.”
“God loves his children, they are precious in his sight and we must not be fearful of our plight,” describes Turley of some of the assurances she finds in the Bible. She also notes that God is willing to answer prayers but that “we must ask him!” Beyond prayers, Turley hopes Christians in Cape Town are taking “opportunities to help others in very tangible, grassroots way,” such as fetching potable water for elderly or infirm people.
“As water supplies continue to dwindle, the onus is on all Christians to follow Jesus’s example [of being selfless]. One way we can do this is by restricting our own water usage and in so doing make more water available for all to share.”
“Day Zero could be the beginning of not having water in our taps but we can overcome that.” – Thabo Makgoba
Thabo Makgoba leads the Anglican Church in South Africa. Earlier this month, the Anglican Archbishop addressed the Water (In)Justice conference in Cape Town and also spoke of calm and assurance.
Makgoba disagreed with using the term Day Zero, saying it conjured imagery of “the end”. Pointing to the book of Genesis’s account of the world’s creation, Makgoba believed that the prospect of taps being turned off in Cape Town should be called “Day One.”
“In a biblical perspective, the concept of void and nihilism does not sit well because we take the creation story seriously, because in the beginning God acted and there was day one.”
“Day Zero could be the beginning of not having water in our taps but we can overcome that… which is why I prefer to say day one.”
Local ministers are also pointing people back to the Bible as a source of comfort in a time of crisis. At St James church in suburban Kenilworth, minister Mervyn Eloff called for Capetonians to remember that other social issues continued in their city and that the water shortage was a complicated crisis. Despite such a backdrop – and without claiming to have “any special insight or particular word from the Lord” – Eloff encouraged people to seek the sort of assistance offered by the Bible.
“I believe that the Bible properly understood gives us absolutely everything we need for every part of life,” said Eloff, who was raised on a farm and experienced several drought periods.