Water Crisis in Cape Town, South Africa

By Ian Teñido

The City of Cape Town is getting serious, very serious, about its water restrictions as the six dams serving the city have dropped below 36%SAPeopleNews

Water crisis has become a new fad in the problem sphere of the world. This crisis has not spared the major cities either. Last year, I delved into how water scarcity was affecting the cities of California and Las Vegas and how the residents had come up with ingenious ways including desalination to address the scarcity. Well, some of the ingenious ways implemented by the major cities is because they have adequate budgets and a functioning economy to fund the water mega projects. This is not possible however for some other regions whose budgets are deficient; Cape Town in South Africa is one such city. Climate change coupled with demographic dynamics have exacerbated the water conditions across the globe with developing nations bearing the brunt of the consequences due to their economic inadequacies.

Just recently, the Cape Town authorities told the tourists visiting the town to limit their showers to 90 seconds and flush the toilets as little times as possible and swim in the sea rather than in pools. This is because the city is experiencing the worst water scarcity period due to a tough drought in over a century. The water restrictions imposed by the city manifests the water scarcity problems that major cities are facing across the world. The weather patterns are changing and the traditional rain patterns are fading away; with newer patterns coming with little and irregular falls.

The city harbored a move dubbed Day Zero- a day when taps are turned off and all water distributed at rationed check points. In addition, the water officers have required the residents to observe stricter conditions on consumption; a move which has been touted to be detrimental in maintaining proper public health. Given that Cape Town is the leading tourist destination in the country and Africa at large, the water crisis is likely to affect the tourism services as well as the number of tourists streaming into the city.

Water crisis in Cape TownDie Vryburger

It goes without saying that water is everything in any establishment. Yet still, the global arena is to come to terms with the fact that climate change is real and should be addressed. The evidence for water scarcity can be pulled from every city in the world; we are not living during the Martin Luther King Jr. times or Abraham Lincoln’s when water was not much of a concern for anybody. It could be fetched unconsciously from the running streams for nature had the abundance to offer. For Cape Town, the story is quite similar. They are not living during the times of Nelson Mandela’s youth; times have changed, occasioned by intensifying effects of climate change. The drought in Cape Town began in 2015 resulting into faltering economic strength from the agricultural sector and now into the water sector.

Despite the water saving measures which have been put in place, the dam levels are predicted to fall low further in the continued absence of rains. The University of Cape Town did a research between 2015 and 2017 which revealed that 2017 was the driest year in the city since 1933. This kind of drought is posted to occur only once in nearly 400 years.

While a drought of such magnitude would occur naturally, the longevity with which the period of drought has persisted tells of a change in expectations insofar as raining is concerned. Does the situation in Cape Town point to the beginning of real water scarcity across the world or had the problem already began in silent? There is need for countries to converge their thinking to preserve and conserve this precious resource or, ultimately, we going the Cape Town way.



Fisher-Jeffes, L., Carden, K., Armitage, N., & Winter, K. (2017). Storm water Harvesting: Improving Water Security in South Africa’s Urban Areas. South African Journal of Science. Volume 113 (Number 1/2).

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