Cape Town Faces Severe Water Crisis

Cape Town South Africa
Photo by Kieran1/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Have a trip booked for Cape Town? You can forget hitting the pool or Jacuzzi—you can also forget about a long, relaxing bath.

Cape Town could become the first major city in the developed world to run out of water, which will affect both citizens and tourists. South Africa’s second-largest city is quickly approaching Day Zero—currently April 12—when the city will shut off its water supply and almost four million people will have to wait at one of 200 standpipes to receive daily rations of 25 liters (6.6 gallons), according to BBC News. The 6.6 gallons is the minimum amount of water needed in emergencies, as stated by the World Health Organization.

How does this affect the travel industry? Other than visitors having to adhere to the strict regulations regarding water consumption, not much, according to South African Tourism.

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In a statement on the situation, South African Tourism says, “South African Tourism would like to thank the many tourists and tourism businesses that have heeded the call to reduce their water usage over the festive season, while urging them to not lose steam.”

South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona added: “We are pleased that we have not received any reports of any tourism attractions and services interrupted by the water shortage and we appeal to tourists, and tourism businesses to continue being good responsible tourism citizens and continue being water-wise, even as the peak holiday season in South Africa winds down.”

“The water crisis will be with us for a while, so it is imperative for our hospitality and leisure establishments, as well as local and international tourists to continue using water responsibly,” noted Ntshona.

Tourists are still being welcomed with open arms but to keep them informed, hotels have postings throughout the property. It can be a tricky situation for Cape Town, which can’t afford to waste any water but also can’t pass on the tourism dollars, which is the lifeblood of the economy, said Anthony Turton, a professor at the Center for Environmental Management at the University of the Free State, to The New York Times.

And despite the drought, visitors are arriving in droves. This December, 127,309 international visitors arrived at Cape Town International Airport, an 11.5 percent increase from the year prior, According to Airports Company South Africa.

Day Zero was originally supposed to be nine days later than its current projection but the 86-liter limit was not obeyed by 60 percent of residents, and beginning on February 1 it will be reduced to 50 liters per resident per day. Mayor Patricia de Lille has posted via Twitter that Day Zero is now imminent, as many residents used more than their daily allotted amount.

The Cape Town government has given the following regulations to its citizens:

  • Fix water leaks on your property
  • Use drinking water only for drinking, cooking and essential washing
  • Only flush the toilet when necessary—each flush uses 15 liters on average
  • Cut showers—which use an average of 15 liters per minute—to two minutes
  • Collect your shower, bath and basin water and re-use to flush toilet, water garden and wash car
  • Only run washing machines and dishwashers with a full load

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