Cape Town almost ran out of water. Here's how it averted the crisis
Cape Town’s water crisis got so bad last year that there were competitions to see who could wash their shirts the least. Restaurants and businesses were encouraging people not to flush after going to the toilet. The city was just 90 days away from turning off the taps.
A year on, the South African city’s parched dams are now over 80% full. Water use restrictions have been relaxed. And Day Zero – the point at which Cape Town’s municipal water supply would be shut off – never came to pass.
Having been threatened by one of the worst-ever drought-induced municipal water crises, residents became water-wise.
A city united
In a dry climate, with rapid urbanization and relatively high per capita water consumption, Cape Town had all the makings of a water crisis. In 2018, after three years of poor rainfall, the city announced drastic action was needed to avoid running out.
Reducing demand was a key priority. The City of Cape Town worked to get residents and businesses on board with a host of water-saving initiatives. People were instructed to shower for no longer than two minutes. A campaign with the slogan “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” promoted flushing the toilet only when necessary. And the use of recycled water – so-called greywater – was also pushed.