What is the Cape Town water crisis?
Cape Town, like most of South Africa, gets its water from dams. However, due to plummeting rainfall in the last three years, the reservoirs are running dangerously low. If there is no rain soon, taps in Cape Town will be turned off on 11th May which is ominously being called ‘Day Zero’. Experts report that climate change is undoubtedly a contributing factor and it is likely that phenomenon such as this will continue to happen if nothing is done. Alongside this, the city’s population has grown by 79% since 1995 which has placed a strain on the cities water reserves.
What does this mean for my trip?
Although the situation sounds daunting, there is no reason to delay or cancel your trip. It’s likely that you are volunteering in order to experience how others live and while Cape Town is one of Africa’s wealthiest cities, 1 million of its residents live in informal settlements where there is no running water. Travelling to Cape Town in the next few months will be challenging but will definitely give you a taste of what life is like for those who can not take water for granted.
What is being done?
About 70% of Cape Town’s water use comes from households so its four million residents have been restricting their water usage in order to try and delay Day Zero. In fact, residents have reduced their water use by 34% just in the last month but it’s not enough to stop the taps running dry. The filling of swimming pools, watering gardens and washing cars has been banned to avoid unnecessary water use and the government is also currently building desalination plants in order to try and make saltwater safe to drink.
What happens after Day Zero comes?
Once Day Zero comes, residents will collect their allowance of water from taps which have been installed across the city. It is predicted that this will mean queuing for a lot of people however this is an unprecedented situation and so it’s a good idea to keep in touch with your travel providers for the most up to date advice.
How can I limit my water usage while I’m in Cape Town?
While turning the tap off while brushing your teeth is promoted in the UK and US, Cape Townians are way beyond simple measures. Many have taken to collecting the water they use in the shower to use to flush the toilet and water plants. Other recommendations are to make clothes last as long as possible and cut down the amount of water used by cooking. If you are volunteering at one of our projects in Cape Town, you will be fully briefed on arrival but be prepared to stick to the same limit as residents. Add wet wipes, hand sanitizer and dry shampoo to your packing list along with anything else that you think could come in handy!
Let us know in the comments if you have heard of, or tried, any inventive water saving ideas!
If you want to see how you can use your allowance or see how much you currently use, check out this handy calculator.