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Cape Town & Western Cape Water Situation

The Western Cape and the City of Cape Town (South Africa) are currently facing a challenging drought situation due to below average rainfall over a number of years.

As a result, locals have daily water restrictions in place and tourists are requested to be water-wise in order to conserve this precious resource while ensuring that visitors enjoy this diverse and world-class destination. Water-related facilities at certain hotels may be influenced during this period. The Western Cape and City of Cape Town are however open for business and ready to welcome all visitors.

Our CEO, Glenn McKeag, has been personally involved in discussions and high-level meetings with our Premier of the Western Cape and key stakeholders in the Tourism Industry to discuss the influence on tourism establishments.

In spite of the seriousness of the current water crisis, it is business as usual and tourists are more than welcome in the Western Cape, but are requested to support the water conservation initiatives. Some parts of the tourism and hospitality industry have proactively adjusted how they utilise water in order to reduce their consumption – giving guests peace of mind that every drop is being used responsibly. It is important to note that there are many places across the Western Cape that are not as severely affected, including the Garden Route and the Cape Overberg.

In the event of what the City of Cape Town refers to as “Day Zero”, there will be available water for tourists and locals’ critical needs. “Day Zero” is when the City of Cape Town cuts the regular flow of water. “Day Zero” is a projected date that is entirely dependent on current rates of water consumption.

The Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town together with key tourism trade partners, such as SATSA, Cape Town Tourism, Wesgro, Saaci and Fedhasa, have compiled a list of answers to important questions:

If tourists visit Cape Town or the Western Cape, will there be water?

  • There is adequate water for tourists’ essential daily needs, such as washing, using the toilet and other daily hygiene. In the event of “Day Zero”, water will be severely rationed but sufficient for daily needs. At present, water restrictions are in place in the City of Cape Town, and residents and tourists are requested to adhere to them.

What does “Day Zero” mean?

  • “Day Zero” is when the City of Cape Town would cut the regular flow of water.
  • “Day Zero” is a projected date that is entirely dependent on current rates of water consumption; if all stakeholders adhere to the required water savings targets, “Day Zero” can be avoided.
  • Tourists would still be able to enjoy the diverse and world-class experiences that Cape Town and the Western Cape have to offer.

If “Day Zero” arrives, for how long will the ordinary flow of water be cut?

  • Cape Town is located in a winter rainfall area. Historically the winter rains have started in April, but they can start as late as June. We should be prepared to live with very little water for around 3 months, with the hope that by the end of winter, enough rain has fallen to switch the water system back on.

How widespread is the drought in South Africa?

  • The drought and resultant water restrictions are mostly isolated to parts of the Western Cape Province, particularly the City of Cape Town and surrounding areas.
  • Nearby regions like the Cape Overberg and the Garden Route are less impacted by water restrictions. It is important to remember that South Africa is in general a water-scarce country.

Will tourists have access to drinking water?

  • Yes.

Will tourists be able to bath, shower or use a swimming pool?

  • At present, tourists will be able to shower and maintain daily hygiene. Mandated guidelines suggest a shower of no longer than 2 minutes. The use of baths is entirely discouraged. Some swimming pools at hotels have been converted to salt (ocean) water.
  • The majority of tourism establishments have put in place measures to ensure their water usage is reduced, and many have developed plans for alternative supplies.

Will restaurant and bars still be operating?

  • In the event of “Day Zero” – yes. Many parts of the hospitality industry have proactively implemented water savings and water augmentation solutions to ensure ongoing availability of water in their establishments.
  • Restaurants and bars are not currently negatively influenced but must still comply with water restrictions.

Which tourism activities could be impacted?

  • Tourists will still be able to access and enjoy primary tourism attractions, such as our iconic Table Mountain, Cape Point and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
  • Specific river-based experiences may be impacted.

Will emergency services still function in the event of “Day Zero”?

  • Yes. All critical emergency services (hospitals, clinics, police services) will continue to function.

Will major events still be staged?

  • Yes. All major events have proactively put in place plans to ensure that events have a zero or heavily reduced water footprint e.g. bringing in water from outside of Cape Town / the Western Cape.