As you may be aware, Cape Town, and the Cape Winelands, are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in recent history. The region is severely water-stressed. So this does have an impact on both locals and visitors alike.
Does this mean you should change your visit to Cape Town, or be nervous of travelling there? In short, no you shouldn’t!
But yes, there are current water-saving measures in place that you should be aware of. That way, when you arrive, you’ll have a clear idea of what to expect (and how to help!) Unfortunately it means that you won’t be able to have a 10 minute shower, but these are minor setbacks in what should be a memorable experience.
Before we delve into what to expect, it may be helpful to understand some key facts. Currently there are a lot of myths and negative stories around this issue, but the City of Cape Town, and most of its residents, are working tirelessly to combat the problem.
- Daily water consumption remains above the 500 million litres/day target & dam storage levels have fallen below 20%
- But, there many projects underway to provide supplementary alternative water supplies, some of which come on line in the next couple of weeks as well as emergency desalination efforts which will kick in by the end of March.
- The City of Cape Town is also applying advanced pressure management, reducing water pressure at times of peak flow. (This means your shower may be a ‘low pressure’ one like the ones you used to have as a child.) It’s also monitoring residents’ water usage and placing restrictions on those abusing water.
- Tourists only make up 3.4% of the Western Cape’s water consumption so the main aim of the city’s campaign is to reduce water consumption of its residents.
- There is wide-scale promotion of the Day Zero scenario (when the ‘water runs out’!) This is an effort to focus residents’ attention and efforts. However their secondary, less publicized, message is that it’s avoidable through the careful management of consumption. Day Zero is currently ‘set’for May 12th, (but the winter rains usually start before that date.)
- There is a daily water usage limit is now down to 50 litres per person per day for domestic households. (This equates to a short shower, a couple of loo flushes and some water for washing up/washing clothes.)
- Even in a worst case scenario, the heart of the city of Cape Town will continue to have running water from the above alternative water supplies. (This includes the CBD and the Waterfront).
Thus Cape Town wants to encourage visitors to also conserve water. You will probably see many signs at your hotel, and throughout the city, asking you to conserve water wherever possible.
So what should you expect?
On arrival at your hotel or guest house in Cape Town, you should be told what water-saving measures they have put in place, and given tips of how you can assist with conserving water. If you don’t see any signage or receive information, it is worth asking them about it!
For example, most hotels have taken away bath plugs so that baths are not even an option. (Others just ask you not to bath…) Some hotels have installed low pressure shower heads. All will ask you to keep showers short. If the hotel is reliant on municipal water, they may not have a functioning swimming pool. (But many hotels and guesthouses have made other arrangements e.g. using borehole water, desalinated sea water etc.)
In shopping mall bathrooms you may find that hand sanitizer is on offer, instead of washing hands.
So how can YOU help?
- Try to follow all the water-saving tips given by your hotel.
- Limit your showers to under 2 minutes, and avoid bathing. Turn off the shower whilst you shampoo your hair.
- Many hotels are providing a bucket to place under the shower head to collect water. This both provides water for plants in their garden and is also a subtle reminder of your water usage.
- Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth rather than letting the tap run.
- Re-use your towels instead of asking for new ones on a daily basis.
- Now for a more tricky one…Don’t flush the toilet unnecessarily i.e. don’t flush after every pee. (Aim to flush not more than 2-3 times a day.) Each flush uses between 6 and 14 litres, depending on the kind of toilet. (We know – this one takes some getting used to, especially if you are coming from water-blessed climates!)
Given that Cape Town and the Winelands is usually only 3 or 4 nights of a two week trip, we hope that you can assist us with reducing your water consumption. And to accept these restrictions which may affect your enjoyment in a small way.
We know that you will still have a wonderful safari in South Africa!