The drought in Cape Town

As you may know I live in Cape Town in South Africa.  What you may not know is that we are having a terrible drought at the moment and conserving water has become of utmost importance.

For some time now we’ve been hearing about Day Zero which is when the taps are expected to run dry and we’ll have to queue for water.  This has been a massive worry for quite some time and we heard the other day that if we continue our water conserving efforts here in Cape Town, this will pushed out for the rest of the year.

So what are we doing at the moment?

From 1st February this year we have been limited to 50 litres per person per day.

Scary fact: some toilets use as much as 9 litres per flush. One laundry cycle (depending on your washing machine and the wash cycle selected) can use up more than the daily allowance in one wash!

So how do we get by on 50 litres per day?

We collect every drop of water used indoors (washing machine water, dishwashing water, the water used to wash hands and shower etc and save it in buckets.  Then we re-use this grey water around the home.  We’ve been flushing our toilets this way for a while now.  You’d be surprised how quickly you can fill a bucket with used water.  Simply doing the dishes can fill a bucket with ease.

We have to shower for less than 90 seconds – doable if you turn off the water between soaping and applying shampoo.

The days of soaking in a bubble bath are long forgotten memories. Sadly this was my way of relaxing after work. The tub, a cup of tea (or glass of wine depending on the day I’ve had) and me.   Now it is just me and my wine.

In our office at work we have no water to the taps in the bathrooms. So we spray our hands with sanitiser. The first thing I do everyday when I get home is wash my hands. I cannot tell you how good it feels. My hands are quite dry from the sanitiser (I buy wipes sometimes) and I do worry about the spread of germs.  There is water to the loos but this is for when it is necessary if you get my drift.  The phrase ‘If it is yellow, let it mellow’ was funny in “Meet the Fockers” but a reality for us here in Cape Town at the moment.  It is amazing how quickly we got into the routine (it did feel odd at first not flushing but now it is the norm).  We use a spray inside the toilet which neutralises the urine smell and this works well.

This whole experience has been an eye opener. Something that so many take for granted and use with free abandon has become precious and the need to conserve this commodity is on everyone’s minds.  At work we exchange ideas of how we are saving at home.  On FB there are groups with advice.  There is a lot of information out there and we need to just keep at this.  There are plans for water desalination plants but these are expensive and it take time.

When hubby and I are away in a place without water restrictions one of the first things we look forward to is a shower where we don’t have to count the seconds.  And yet we never linger long because the water saving mindset is always there.  We had to remind ourselves to flush when we were at Sun City last month instead of filling buckets with gray water.  Sounds crazy but it was such a treat!  It is amazing how quickly you can get into a routine.

We just hope this one doesn’t have to last forever.


12 thoughts on “The drought in Cape Town

  1. Beth says:

    I’ve seen some news headlines about the water crisis in Cape Town but your first hand account is far better than any news story I’ve seen. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this and I hope that it is over sooner rather than later. I’m thinking of you! ❤


  2. San says:

    We’ve had to conserve water here in California for the past few years due to our continuing drought, but wow, we didn’t have to go to the extremes (yet) that you guys in Cape Town have to go through. I do hope the drought will pass and it’s only a temporary situation.
    I work in water resources and it’s such an important topic and people have to be much more aware!


    • says:

      We are really hoping for loads of rain this winter! I didn’t realise you work in water resources – as you say it is such an important topic that we need to be aware of.


  3. Charlotte says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about this, but it’s an important reminder to us all that it’s important to be mindful about this precious resource. I admit, I probably use more water than I should, by letting the water run for a bit in the morning so that it heats up… it’s just a luxury to have running water, that I have really taken for granted.

    Hope this passes for you quickly, and thanks for sharing this ❤


    • says:

      Thanks Charlotte – we hope that we get loads of rain this winter and that it helps the dam levels ❤


  4. Lauren Becker says:

    oh wow, I’ve heard a bit about this but that’s definitely not a lot of water. I can imagine that it’s easier just not to flush – that’s good the spray works to keep the smell away though! That would be my main worry. I hope this isn’t something you all have to do for a very long time!!



    • says:

      We save alot by not flushing and these sprays (we’ve had 2 different ones) really work well.


  5. Lindsay says:

    Wow… shit is real. I’m glad that conservation efforts have pushed it back. I hope that because of this people don’t get weeckless, ya know? It’s still a looming, very real threat. Thanks for sharing your perspective on it, I know you and I have talked about it before.



    • says:

      We are so grateful day zero has been pushed back but we have to keep up with all the water conserving efforts. It has been a huge worry for us.


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