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January 7, 2022 37 min

In 2018, following a historic three-year drought, the water sources in Cape Town, South Africa ran dry. It was the first major city to face Day Zero: when you’d turn on the faucet—and nothing would come out.

The town leaders discussed expensive, environmentally disruptive projects like pipelines and desalination plants. But then an environmental nonprofit, the Nature Conservancy, proposed a radically different approach that could win Cape Town 13 billion gallons of water a year, cheaply and perpetually, using a method that worked with nature instead of against it. All they needed was a helicopter, some ropes and saws, and some of the poorest women in Cape Town.

Guests: Louise Stafford, Director of Source Water Protection in South Africa, The Nature Conservancy. Thandeka Mayiji-Rafu and Asiphe Cetywayo, Greater Cape Town Water Fund tree-cutting contractors.

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