South Africa Water Crisis

February 12, 2018, 12:00 pm


‘Day Zero’ sounds like something from a dooms day movie, but unfortunately it’s being used as the term for the day Cape Town and surrounding areas run out of water. Cape Town is projected to be the first major city to run out of water. “After three years of unprecedented drought, the city of Cape Town has less than 90 days’ worth of water in its reservoirs.” (TIME

‘Day Zero’ is tentatively anticipated to occur on May 11, 2018, forcing authorities to ask residents to drastically cut down on their daily use. The government of South Africa is hopeful ‘Day Zero’ won’t come to fruition, but have put a plan in place just in case. Taps will be turned off before the dams run completely dry and the city will set up 200 collection points where residents can receive six gallons of water daily. These collection points will be under army and police supervision in order to maintain order. (USA Today

Currently, the city has capped the household water usage to 13.2 gallons per person, per day (to put it into perspective, the average American uses 88 gallons of water per day). For most homes, this means showers under 2 minutes, no watering gardens or washing cars, refraining from flushing the toilet unless absolutely necessary, recycling bath water and limiting dishwasher/washing machine use. (TIME) Residents who use beyond the 23 gallons (per person, per day) will be fined or have devices installed on their property that limit water supply.  

While the implications for short-term travelers are currently minimal, the implementation of Day Zero protocols would result in considerable disruption. Water rationing is likely to impact the availability of viable accommodation options, and cause operational disruption as some businesses are forced to close. Critical services, including hospitals and the central business district, will continue to be supplied by the municipality. It’s unclear how long water rationing will last, but alternative water sources are expected to become operational between February and August. (International SOS)

South African authorities approved plans to build a desalination plant to turn salty sea water into potable water. In December, construction began on the V&A Waterfront. By the end of February, the plant will feed two million liters of water into municipal networks. (Brand South Africa) “A temporary desalination plant is due to start producing 2000 cubic meters of water a day (going up to 7000 in phase 2) starting in March.” (The South African

In other areas of the city, crews are drilling boreholes to extract water for hospitals in case ‘Day Zero’ is declared. The drilling for Groote Schuur Hospital took place in the Table Mountain National Park area and only 7 liters per second were yielded. In order to adequately water secure the facility, an additional yield of 2.8 liters per second is required. 

Rain on Friday, 10 February, had many people set out buckets and anything that collect the rainfall. Even though the rain fall was minimal, the welcomed rain was a small relief for the drought stricken city.  Most are looking forward to the area’s rainy season, which begins in May and typically brings an average of seven to nine rainy days per month until September.   


News Sources 


Travel Advice

  • Follow water restriction  guidelines from the authorities and your accommodation provider. 
  • Your accommodation may have stored drinking water for you – otherwise keep 1.32-2.65 gallons (five-ten liters) available per four people per day.  
  • Any water for drinking should be stored in clean, sealed containers, in a cool place, clearly labelled as drinking water.
  • Limit water usage as much as possible, especially during peak usage times.
  • Avoid any protests or demonstrations and leave the area at the first sign of a crowd gathering. 


As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478 or UTPD at +1-512-471-4441