Save like a local: how visitors can help during Cape Town's water crisis
Cape Town is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history, which has led to a serious water crisis. The region is severely water-stressed, and this has an impact on both locals and tourists.
We need your help
We need you to save like a local, and keep your usage to under 50 litres per day. You can still have a fantastic holiday without wasting resources, and we ask that you take special care when you visit. We love Cape Town, and we want it to remain a wonderful destination for future generations. If we all work to conserve our precious resources, we can make a big difference!
How this will affect your holiday
While we’re doing all we can to ensure Cape Town remains a sustainable destination and your stay is comfortable, there are a few ways this might affect you as a visitor. Some accommodation establishments have closed their pools, saunas and steam rooms, and removed bath plugs, to limit non-essential water use. Please check with your chosen accommodation. We thank you for understanding.
10 tips to save like a local
- Choose to stay in accommodation that has water-saving and contingency plans in place. Make sure you call and ask before booking, so you know exactly what to expect.
- Re-use your towels instead of asking for a new one daily.
- Try to flush the toilet as little as possible. Each flush uses between 6 and 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 bathing.
- Report leaking taps and toilets as soon as you notice them.
- Avoid washing clothes until you have a full load’s worth of laundry, or make use of water-wise laundry services such as Green Planet Laundry.
- 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.
- Use this nifty calculator to make sure you’re helping to save water.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the current water restriction and how will this affect my trip to Cape Town?
Level 6b restrictions have been in effect from February 1, which means that daily use is limited 50 litres per person. The City is asking everyone to stick to this limit so that we can avoid ‘Day Zero’.
Business have to cut their water usage and have put measures in place ( such as placing hand sanitisers in bathrooms, using salt water to fill pools, providing bottled water, and getting water from alternate sources such as boreholes and rain water).
This will affect your holiday in that you are being asked to use as little water as possible, but you will still be able to do everything you need to enjoy a holiday in Cape Town.
If I visit Cape Town will there be water?
There is adequate water for your essential daily needs such as washing, using the toilet, and daily hygiene. In the event of ‘Day Zero’, water will be severely rationed.
Is it irresponsible to come to Cape Town during the drought?
During peak season (November – January) international tourists only add 1% to the population of the Western Cape. This number drops from April – September. If you follow the daily usage guideline, your impact would be negligible.
The tourism sector supports approximately 300,000 much-needed jobs across the Western Cape. It is vital to preserve these jobs.
What does ‘Day Zero’ mean?
‘Day Zero’ is when the City of Cape Town will cut the regular flow of water. ‘Day Zero’ is a projected date (in 2019 at current projections): if all of us adhere to the water savings target, ‘Day Zero’ can be avoided.
Even if ‘Day Zero’ arrives, you would still be able to enjoy the diverse and world-class experiences Cape Town has to offer.
Will I have to queue for water if the regular flow of water is cut?
Locals will need to queue to collect water. Visitors to the city should contact their hotel or host ahead of time to find out what plans they have made. Many hotels have made alternate arrangements.
If “Day Zero” arrives, how long will the ordinary flow of water be cut?
Cape Town gets all its rain in winter. Rains usually start in April, but can come as late as June. If Day Zero arrives, we’ll need to live with very little water until enough rain has fallen to switch the water back on. This all depends on when rain falls in the catchment areas that feed the dams.
How widespread is the drought in South Africa?
The drought and water restrictions are mostly limited to parts of the Western Cape – particularly the City of Cape Town and some surrounding areas. Nearby regions such as The Overberg and The Garden Route are less impacted by water restrictions. However, it’s important to remember that South Africa in general is a water-scarce country.
Will I have access to drinking water?
Will I be able to bath, shower or use a swimming pool?
Currently, you will be able to shower and maintain daily hygiene, although showers must be kept under 90 seconds. The use of baths is entirely discouraged. Some swimming pools at hotels have been converted to salt (ocean) water.
The majority of hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions have put in place measures to ensure their water usage is reduced, and many have plans for alternative supplies.
Will restaurants and bars still be in operation?
Yes. Establishments have proactively implemented water savings and alternate water solutions. Restaurants and bars are required to adhere to the water restrictions but have not, to date, been negatively affected.
Which tourism activities could be impacted?
You will still be able to access and enjoy our main attractions such as the iconic Table Mountain, Cape Point, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Specific river-based experiences may be impacted.
Will emergency services still function in the event of ‘Day Zero’?
Yes. All critical emergency services (hospitals, clinics, fire stations and police services) will continue to function.
Will major events still happen?
Yes. All major events have proactively put in place plans to ensure that events have a zero (or heavily reduced) water-footprint e.g. bringing in water from outside of Cape Town/the Western Cape.
Will there be any areas exempt from water restrictions?
Yes. Details will provided when they are available.
For more information visit capetown.gov.za/thinkwater.