Water jugs
Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Cape Town is Running Out Of Water

A water crisis has stricken Cape Town; and what is being called Day Zero — which is the day the city in South Africa is expected to run out of water and taps would run dry — could occur as soon as Saturday, April 21, 2018.

Cape Town is Running Out Of Water

All households in the city will be required to reduce their municipal water consumption to a maximum of 50 litres per person per day, which equates to almost 13.21 gallons per person per day.

“On Day Zero, the city will move into full-scale Emergency Stage 3”, according to this document from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. “This means that water to households and businesses will be cut off. There will not be enough water in the system to maintain normal services and the taps (and toilets) will run dry. Only vital services will still receive water. These are hospitals and clinics, stand-pipes in informal settlements and the 200 points of distribution (PoDs) where people can collect their allocated 25 litres per person. All other mains water supplied by the city will be cut off. Most schools will have to close if they don’t have their own safe supply from boreholes or rainwater tanks. Many businesses will not be able operate unless they can provide temporary (off-mains) toilets and drinking water.”

This article from GroundUp does a good job of dispelling the myths and stating the facts pertaining to the current water crisis in Cape Town — and more information is found here — but despite the efforts to conserve water, even more could be done.

What You Can Do If You Visit Cape Town

If you plan on traveling to Cape Town during its water crisis, please be sensitive, cognizant and aware of your use of water while you are there.

Many hotel and resort properties now offer ways to conserve water — including those of lodging companies such as Hilton, which takes conservation and saving the environment seriously — the most common of which is to re-use towels, bed sheets and pillow cases simply by leaving them in a way designated by management of the hotel or resort property.

Back on Sunday, November 15, 2009, I reported in this article on how some lodging companies offered incentives if you declined housekeeping services. For example, at one Starwood Preferred Guest hotel property in Seattle, you were able to earn either a gift card per day worth five United States dollars to the hotel restaurant or 500 Starpoints per day simply for declining daily housekeeping.

Because my hotel stays are usually no greater than one or two days, I do not know if any lodging companies still offer incentives to decline housekeeping — although the program still appears to exist in some form at Starwood Hotels and Resorts worldwide, according to this discussion posted on FlyerTalk.


  • Consider bringing fewer clothes with you when you travel. It is not a crime if you wore the same shirt or blouse twice during a trip instead of once. If you are able to do this throughout your trip with all of the your clothes, this means saving water on washing them — not to mention carrying half as much clothing with you on the trip.
  • Whenever you shave — whether in a hotel bathroom or at home — consider only running the water when your need to clean your razor and wash whatever shaving cream is left on your face and hands if you are a man; or legs and other body parts if you are a woman. Imagine how many gallons of fresh water would be saved if everyone else who shaved did this simple action.
  • When dining out at a restaurant, only ask for water if you will drink it. Chances are that restaurants are not automatically giving water to patrons unless they specifically request it.

What Business Owners and Residents of Cape Town Could Do

Flushing toilets with gray water from showers and saving rain water are part of a good start; but as the season is currently summer there, business owners and residents of Cape Town should consider implementing the advice which I wrote pertaining to the importance of conserving water in this article on Tuesday, October 18, 2016 in addition to the aforementioned suggestions for visitors — including but not limited to:

  • Taking the condensation from all of the air conditioning units with which buildings are equipped and using it for flushing toilets and other non-potable purposes
  • Saving water in preparing hot showers by collecting the colder water in clean jugs until the water is warm enough for a shower
  • Using the shower immediately after someone else is finished showering, as the water should still be at or near the temperature which is comfortable enough for showering
  • Install shower heads and toilets which use less water overall
  • Desalinization is an expensive process; but it is still an option, as Cape Town is located on the coast of the southern Atlantic Ocean


The weather in Cape Town is currently what many people would consider fantastic; but no rain is forecast for the city until Thursday, February 15, 2018 at the soonest — and even then, the amount of precipitation is expected to be minimal at best.

I employ many of the aforementioned suggestions whenever I am at home; but I also attempt to conserve water while traveling as well. I estimate that I conservatively save at least 2,000 gallons of water per year just with these ideas, as on a hot and humid summer day in the Atlanta area, the air conditioning in my home can yield as much as ten gallons of water per day.

Unfortunately, drinking water is inexpensive enough to take for granted — and implementing technological and engineering solutions which could help automatically conserve water are usually considered too expensive.

More people live on our planet today than ever in history — which means that potable water is required more than ever as well — but potable water is a finite resource which needs to be managed significantly better; and the time is never too late to do so…

…and I hope that the people of Cape Town weather the current water crisis and emerge from it with a significantly better appreciation of drinking water.

Pray for rain for the people of Cape Town…

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

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