Cape Town Water Crisis: What it Really Means for International Visitors

If you are planning a trip to South Africa in 2018/2019, chances are, you have already heard about the water crisis that is affecting the Western Cape, and in particular, Cape Town.  Lack of rain in recent years has left the regions dams all but dry, and while severe water restrictions have been put in place, there is still a very real risk of DAY ZERO, the day when Cape Town’s taps are switched off.

There has been a lot in the news about this, both in South Africa and overseas, but it seems many international visitors are not getting the information they need about the Cape Town Water Crisis, and this has left many would-be visitors asking if should they visit at all?

The truth is, South Africa needs our tourism more than ever as it tries to overcome this challenge, but we need to be mindful of the situation, and as visitors to the country, we must do our bit to ensure we put as little strain on the region’s water supplies as possible. Every drop really does count.

South African residents are currently restricted to just 50 litres of water per person per day, and those found to be using more than their allocation receive hefty fines. 50 litres may sound like a lot, but when you consider that an average 2-minute shower uses around 20 litres and flushing the toilet 12 litres, there is not a lot left over at the end of the day for drinking, laundry, and washing fruit and veg. The crisis is very real for the people of the Western Cape.

As a visitor to South Africa’s Mother City, staying in a hotel, it is unlikely that the water crisis will affect you in any way. When you check in to your hotel, you may be briefed about the situation, the plugs may have been removed from your sink and bathtub, your shower head may be fitted with a water saving attachment, and your toilet may only work on the shorter flush… but that’s really it.

You will not be subjected to the severity of the crisis, but if you want your visit to Cape Town to boost the local economy without draining its valuable water supplies, you should practice the following Water-Wise Tips as released by the City of Cape Town:

  • Choose to stay in hotels and accommodation that have water-saving and contingency plans in place. They should be able to provide you with this information at the time of booking.
  • Re-use your towels instead of asking for new ones each day.
  • Try to flush the toilet as little as possible. A single flush uses 6 to 14 litres, depending on the kind of toilet.
  • Use a cup to rinse your mouth when you brush your teeth rather than letting the taps run.
  • Limit your showers to under 90-seconds and avoid baths altogether.
  • Report leaking taps and toilets as soon as you notice them.
  • Avoid hand washing clothes. When you have a full load, make use of one of the many water-wise laundry services in the city.
  • Take a dip in the ocean and tidal pools instead of swimming pools, and maybe even spare yourself a shower.
  • If possible, use a dishwasher to clean dishes. Just make sure you only run it when it is full.
  • Limit your water use to less than 50 litres per day.

Day Zero has now been pushed back to July, with some authorities stating that it will not come at all in 2018, but we shouldn’t become complacent. The crisis is not over yet, not by a long way, but if visitors work together with the local people of South Africa, we can make a difference.

Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and so please go there and enjoy it, just make sure EVERY DROP COUNTS!


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