Tips for surviving the Western Cape’s water crisis

On June 1, the City of Cape Town (CoCT) follows in Eskom’s infamous electricity loadshedding footsteps and plans to introduce watershedding.  Poor planning and management means that Capetonians will be inconvenienced and suffer hardships, but what does it mean for the Province’s tourism industry — its economic lifeblood?

Water dropVisiting Cape Town — and many of the towns in the Province — for a dirty weekend or holiday could take on an entirely new connotation!  The biggest challenge is that no-one knows what to expect.  Will the water supply that allows a shower only last a few hours a day with a lifeline trickle at other times?  Which areas might have to rely on water tankers alone?

The CoCT doesn’t know or hasn’t communicated this.  In our story If dams go dry – what it means for tourism in Cape Town they didn’t respond to our queries.  Or more accurately, they did respond but failed to deliver on an undertaking to provide information.  The mayor keeps blaming the worst drought in 100 years… but the CoCT has been emphasizing Climate Change for a decade, and should know that every drought forwards will be worse than the last one!

The challenges are twofold:

  • Saving water dramatically and finding alternative sources.  Water isn’t like electricity where you can just buy a generator and plug it in.  But you can buy a rainwater tank for when the rain does come.
  • Managing perceptions, expectations and inconveniences — which is going to be especially critical for the tourism & hospitality industries.

In our previous story we heard what hotel groups like TsogoSun have already done to save water — reuse of greywater, low-pressure shower heads with aerators, etc.  And the V&A Waterfront is the world leader in Sustainable Development.  Click here for their water-saving measures since 2009.

Cape Town Tourism’s CEO spoke about innovative ways of managing perceptions: “Some of our members have also incentivized visitors to reduce their water consumption in exchange for discounts or free drinks or dinner.”

We’ve also heard of hotels and guest houses removing the bath plugs, to encourage people to shower.  (If you have to bath, a bath plug can be requested at reception.)

So please share your tips for saving water and managing the perceptions and experiences of guests.  No matter where you are in the world or what you’ve seen elsewhere in the world, we want your tips!

3 responses to “Tips for surviving the Western Cape’s water crisis”

  1. Eskom handed out free low-energy lightbulbs during their loadshedding. Why hasn’t the CoCT handed out tap nozzles that reduce water consumption by 98%? (See
    Or better still, why hasn’t Alan Winde’s Department of Economic Opportunities and Wesgro facilitated the development of a factory here to manufacture these nozzles?

  2. If Jan Brand had still been Cape Town’s City Engineer, Cape Town wouldn’t have had a water crisis. Before he came to Cape Town in the early 70s he was Windhoek’s City Engineer, where he introduced wastewater recycling. Because recycled wastewater is “too pure” and has no essential minerals, it needs to be combined with other sources, but it could supply 20% of Cape Town’s consumption.

  3. Don’t wait for anyone to help you. We would have had terrible trouble regarding our B&B and were told and saw it coming. We purchased JoJo tanks and bought water from the local water “barons”. I call them that as they spent lots of money on equipment to carry water from our local water plant, which cost nothing if you go and get it, partly why we are in the mess we are in, this water supplemented our domestic use, which was very limited by the local authority. There was no rain obviously and this was a good place to buy water. We always had water for our guests and never really had problems unless they turned off the domestic water with good notice. Then it was 5 litre water cans for the toilets to flush. The big issue was the way it was presented as a crisis and how that turned into negative publicity which will ultimately lead to wary tourists. We explained the situation to all our guests and they were all comfortable with the measures. We even had less towels to wash as people would keep them longer to “help out”, do not underestimate the potential of exploiting a “crisis”. If you are the one with the lights on and hot water then you are most likely one of the one’s doing well. The rain is back now and we are still here. Do not despair.
    [Editor: Ernest is located in KZN]

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