Cape Town. A city for the ages. A city that with a global reputation for its landscapes, culture and diversity. And a city that is fast running out of water.

From Thursday, its four million residents will be asked to use only 50 litres a day per person, down from 87 litres. Anyone who fails to abide by these restrictions will have restricters placed in their homes. Based on current projections, the city will be forced to turn off its taps on April 12 – known locally as “Day Zero”.  No wonder Helen Zille, the provincial governor, has asked the national government to declare the city a disaster zone, which would allow extra funding and police, military and medical specialists to be deployed.

So, who and what’s to blame? Three years of drought, not to mention inadequate investment in water infrastructure, have clearly all played a part. But so, too, has been the nationwide failure to curb water usage.

Last year, the World Wide Fund for Nature, supported by The Boston Consulting Group, hosted a “Future of Water” workshop to discuss specific scenarios and map out the path towards a water secure future.

Workshop participants identified four goals that were viewed as essential: become a water-conscious country with sufficient knowledge and skills in the water sector; implement strong water governance; manage water supply and demand regulations and protect water resources; and become a smart water economy.

Focus groups could also be established to assign roles and responsibilities and develop implementation plans, starting with high-priority and quick-win projects. A governmental body can provide oversight and guidance on the implementation along with a project management office to track progress and identify bottlenecks.

The clock is ticking. Every South African has a role to play – starting now.

Read our full report, South Africa’s Water Futures Scenarios