A positive update on Cape Town's water situation

February 08 2018

Following extensive consultations between the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Provincial Government and South African Tourism, a clearer and more positive picture has emerged of the drought situation and the impact on tourism.

Firstly, Day Zero, when the regular water supply is cut off and water distribution points will be introduced has now been pushed out to 11 May and there is general consensus that this event is now unlikely to happen.

This has been achieved by cutting back on agricultural usage of water, and by the augmentation of water supply from private dams belonging to the farming community, as well as reduced water consumption by residents as many turn to alternative water supplies, such as boreholes.

Late May/beginning of June signals the start of the winter rains in the Cape and this is likely to alleviate the severity of the drought.

It is important to note that in the peak tourism months, tourist water consumptions represents less than 1% of total water usage and efforts are being made by the big water consumers - agriculture and industry - to severely curtail their usage. Further water supplies, such as desalination plants are scheduled to come online in May, and some hotel chains such as Tsogo Sun will remove themselves entirely from the water grid by installing their own desalination plants by mid-April. This not only ensures a constant supply to the hotels but also relieves some pressure on the city supply. In the unlikely event that Day Zero occurs, then water supply will not be cut off to key commercial areas (known as Business Protection Zones) in which most hotels fall. These borders have however not yet been set and will only be known in the next 2 weeks.

Surrounding areas such as the Winelands and Hermanus have water restrictions in place but are not as severely affected as they draw water from different sources. So, in summary:

  • The City looks better positioned to see through the final dry summer months until the winter rains arrive.
  • Hotels in key areas are unlikely to be affected.
  • Tourism has been given a priority given it's relatively low consumption and high economic contribution.

We are not advising that any travellers cancel arrangements for any month of travel as we believe the situation can be managed and the worst case scenario has receded. However, travellers are advised that restrictions will still be in place for now, including a ban on bath tubs, usage of grey water for flushing toilets and some pool closures or restrictions.

There are positive signs for strong rainfall this weekend in key water catchment areas which will assist. Further updates are expected by the end of February.

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