Source: USA TODAY

(Photo: NIC BOTHMA, EPA-EFE)

JOHANNESBURG — Murad Ebrahim turned on the shower in his gym locker room. The newly-installed showerhead delivered a gentle stream, then shut off shortly after.

“Two-minute showers,” said Ebrahim, 39, a publishing house executive. “You barely get to soap your body.”

In the shower stalls in his Cape Town gym, buckets catch excess water that doesn’t go down the drain. When they fill up, the gym gives them to customers for flushing toilets.

Cape Town and the surrounding region of South Africa are suffering from a severe drought. Three years of low rain levels and an unseasonably dry winter mean that average dam levels are just over a quarter full. The metro area of 3.7 million has less than 90 days’ worth of water in its reservoirs, making it the first major city in the world that could run out of water.

Cape Town residents and visitors can only use 13 gallons of water per day starting in February. For those who consume more, the city’s water utility will charge a special levy that is three times higher than the current rate.

The average American uses 88 gallons of water per day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents here are awaiting “Day Zero,” when water supplies in Cape Town’s reservoirs drop below 13.5%. Mayor Patricia de Lille estimated recently that the day will likely be April 21. Low rainfall and high consumption, despite the city’s best efforts to promote conservation, are taking their toll, she said.

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