Lessons for Phoenix, as 'Day Zero' approaches for people in Cape Town

- The clock is ticking for the people of Cape Town in South Africa, because in just a few months, the city of nearly four million people will completely run out of water, unless something can be done.

"It's very scary to think of it, but I think its a reality," said one woman in Cape Town. "I think 'Day Zero' is going to happen, whether the government wants to do it or not."

"Day Zero" refers to the date the water is expected to run dry in Cape Town. Currently, authorities there expect the water to run dry on April 12.

"Day Zero" is the result of the worst drought in the region, is over 100 years.

"We're in unprecedented territory, for a major developed economic city to be facing a water crisis of this scale," said Professor Dave White with Arizona State University.

Things are so dire in Cape Town, that residents are now lining up at emergency water stations, where they are being asked to only use about six gallons of water, per-person, per day.

By comparison, the average Phoenix resident uses about 100 gallons of water, per day.

For conservation experts like Professor White, Cape Town's crisis should serve as a wake-up call for desert cities like Phoenix. However, Professor White said Phoenix is considered one of the nation's best, when it comes to conservation.

"The City of Phoenix, for instance, has reduced it's per capita consumption by about 30% in the last 20 years, and they've done that through technology and education, and through a variety of conservation programs," said Professor White.

The question for those living in Cape Town, now, is what happens when "Day Zero" finally comes.

"At that point, the reservoirs will be so low, they will only deliver water to the most essential services, such as hospitals," said Professor White.

Officials in Cape Town are rushing to build alternative water supplies by April, which includes extracting water from other sources in the area. Officials, however, say that at this point, "Day Zero" is "virtually inevitable".

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