Cape Town is in the middle of a serious water shortage. Experts say it's the result of below-average rainfall three years in a row: nothing anyone could have expected or predicted. The last time an extended dry period like this was recorded was the four-year period of 1930 to 1933, 84 years ago and before most of us can remember!
Winter Rainfall Region
Cape Town’s water supply comes from several dams which were below 40% full at the beginning of October, the end of the rainy season; not enough to see it through the dry summer season ahead.
Should it not rain at all between now and April 2018, Cape Town may run out of water.
Various plans have been put in place, including drilling of extra boreholes, constructing of a desalination plant to extract fresh water from seawater and so on.
Cape Town residents are already facing very strict water restrictions and may only use 87 litres per person per day.
Tourists Numbers Not an Issue
Even in peak season, international tourists account for only 1% of the population of Cape Town at any given time – an almost negligible impact on the city’s water supply.
“It is important to clarify that tourists will not have a significant impact on water consumption in the Western Cape,” says Russel Brueton, Chief Communications Officer at Wesgro. *
Most hotels have made strong inroads in saving water consumption and ensuring water supply for tourists remains uninterrupted.
Water-Saving Measures in Place
One accommodation source confirmed that they are exploring all alternative sources of water. They have installed storage tanks and have arranged non-potable water supplies from a nearby town.
Drinking water is being stockpiled and every assurance is being given that water collection points will be available throughout the City should the need arise.
Another source has taken active steps to reduce their carbon footprint:
- All grey water is caught and kept in an underground tank and used for irrigation.
- They have installed aerators in all water fittings, reducing usage from 8 litres to 1.3 litres a minute on basin taps and in showers from 14 – 20 litres of water per minute to only six.
- They have drilled a borehole (well point) that yields well.
- At considerable expense, they are constructing a filtration plant which, when completed, will be analysed and certified safe for human consumption. The interim and long-term benefits are enormous and now they can rest easy.
Interruptions Not Likely in Tourism Hotspots
Outlying residential areas (the biggest water-usage culprits at 66%) and high-use industrial areas are more likely to experience interruptions than the City Bowl, Waterfront, Atlantic Seaboard and other areas popular with tourists.
Should the city run dry completely, more drastic interventions will be required, but drinking water will remain available because many establishments and even supermarkets are already stockpiling drinking water, in case of emergency.
Best Case vs Worst Case
At worst, water for showering may be restricted to certain hours a day. But drinking water will never be a problem.
At best, the water situation will not impact on your overall enjoyment of the myriad activities, beaches, wining and dining and scenery that Cape Town is world-famous for.
Still One of the Most Beautiful Cities in the World
Oddly enough, the Mother City still looks as good as ever. There has been enough rainfall to keep everything green, just not enough in the catchment areas to fill the dams.
Best Places to Stay
We would advise you to book accommodation within the City Bowl & Waterfront, rather than in the outlying suburbs which may bear the brunt of tightened restrictions in the months ahead.
Cape Town Stacks Up Well Worldwide
SE Queensland, Australia, was one of the most water-efficient areas in the western world after their “Millenium Drought” (2006 – 2008) managed to get residents to cut their water usage from 300 litres per person per day to just 129 litres. Cape Town is currently below 100 litres per person per day and less.
Cape Town’s “Only in Cape Town” campaign tops South East Queensland’s, making Cape Town one of the best water-saving cities in the world. At the C40 Cities Award in Paris in 2015, Cape Town’s Water Conservation and Water Demand Management Programme won 1st prize, trumping 91 cities including Paris and Copenhagen. **
The bottom line is: the water shortage should not stop you from visiting the beautiful city of Cape Town.
*Source: Tourism Update
By 22 Nov 2017,