There is a drought in Cape Town. What Visitors Can Do to Help
The Mother City, rather than restricting visitors, continues to welcome them but requests the careful use of water.
2017 has not only been one of the driest years in decades in the Western Cape, it’s also the second of two really dry winters, something that hasn’t happened more than once a millennium before now. And whilst the city has reduced water pressure, which has greatly decreased the daily use of water, water usage is still way too high.
Some areas can expect disrupted water supply in the form of water rationing.
Photograph: By and © Charles HB Mercer – The Theewaterskloof Dam taken on 1 June 2017
As a visitor to Cape Town, you should know:
It is highly likely that Cape Town will run out of municipal water around March 2018.
But the city’s mayor, Patricia De Lille, has assured visitors that they are welcome and will NOT have a devastating impact on water-saving initiatives.
While the city is looking into desalination, water reclamation and groundwater abstraction, its major recourse is water-saving initiatives.
It’s important to note:
That individual households use 55% of the city’s water, which means it is down to individuals to help save water – residents and visitors alike.
And, Cape Town has now put its critical water shortages disaster plan in place – water rationing is happening.
Photograph: By and © Charles HB Mercer – Water supplies in the City of Cape Town are now at critical levels. This image of Theeswaterskloof Dam, the main supplier of water to the city, was taken on 15 October 2017. (Scroll down for historical photos of TWK taken in 2014!)
What you as a visitor can do in this time of drought in Cape Town:
- Use water outside peak flow times – the city has warned there may be water ‘disruptions’ during peak water times – 5am to 9am, and 5pm to 9pm. During these times, certain suburbs may find their water supply turned off, if the demand is too high. If you can shower and use water outside of these times, you are less likely to be inconvenienced and may help certain neighbourhoods not to be disrupted at all. The city alerts Cape Town of these water outages on its @cityofctalerts Twitter account.
- Turn off the taps! It is possible that you turn on a tap during a water outage to discover no water. PLEASE remember to turn it off again, even if there is no water forthcoming. There have been instances of visitors leaving guest houses with taps left on, and they have flooded as a result (huge water wastage).
- Keep a supply of between 5 and 10 litres of water available for drinking, for every four people, so that you’re not caught unawares should a water ‘disruption’ happen.
- Use your shower water to flush your toilet – this is as simple as asking your guesthouse host to supply you with a bucket for your shower, or using the scullery bucket if you’re in a self-catering establishment. You can pour the water directly into the bowl or turn off the toilet’s water inlet pipe and fill up the cistern.
- Use your washing up water for the garden – again, ask your guesthouse for a container that fits into the sink, so that any dishwashing water does not go to waste. This is especially viable if you also use a biodegradable dishwashing liquid – available at most local supermarkets in Cape Town). If your accommodation has a dishwasher, ask how many litres it uses per cycle – an efficient dishwasher uses only around 13 – 18 litres.
- Take 1-minute showers, or shower every other day – Capetonians are now keeping their showers to 1 minute (down from the initial 2-minute showers). Shower navy-style, by switching off the water whilst you soap yourself. Shower rather than bath – a bath uses in excess of 150 litres at a time. Even a half-filled bath uses around 113 litres.
- Only do a full load in the dishwasher and washing machine.
- Grow a beard whilst in Cape Town – and demonstrate your water awareness!
- Use any ‘cloudy water’ that may flow from taps to flush toilets – cloudy water often results after water supply has been turned off. Use the initial flow for toilet flush or the garden. Store as non-drinking water.
- Use waterless hand-sanitiser – to save water.
- Don’t wash your rental car – and don’t expect a spotlessly clean rental vehicle – car hire companies are doing their bit to help conserve water during the drought in Cape Town.
- Swim in the sea – don’t hate on your rental villa if the swimming pool isn’t topped up to the max! Cape Town has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world for you to enjoy – forget about the swimming pool…
- Restaurant visits – many restaurants are no longer offering tap water for drinking. Be prepared to pay for bottled water when eating out.
- Linen and towels – Please try to reuse your towels and bed linen as long as possible before washing them or insisting on a change if you are staying at an hotel or guest house.
Despite the drought in Cape Town, you can still have a rewarding visit!
Where to Stay in Cape Town
Photographs of Theewaterskloof Dam in 2014
Here are some historical photos of the Theewaterskloof Dam taken in October 2014. On the Sonderend River close to the little town of Villiersdorp lies Theewaterskloof Dam. It is a large, sprawling, remarkably unround dam that lies on the R45 that links Villiersdorp to Franschhoek.
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