The water situation in Cape Town has been at the forefront of many a traveller’s mind since it made international headlines only a few months ago. Travel to South Africa’s Mother City has been plagued with concern about whether it is still safe to visit and how the water shortage will affect a stay. We ask our South Africa travel specialists to explain what the water shortage really means for visitors.
Where is the water shortage?
Water restrictions are currently in place in Cape Town and the surrounding Cape region, which stretches as far as the Winelands. This area is fed by the Theewaterskloof Dam, which after three consecutive years of drought, has seen an unprecedented fall in water levels. The lack of rainfall has been exacerbated by a booming population, leading to the declaration of Day Zero, or the day the taps are predicted to run dry.
Elsewhere in South Africa, many areas remain completely unaffected. In Hermanus, only a short drive from Cape Town, it is business as usual and the KwaZulu Natal battle fields, the Garden Route, Johannesburg and the Kruger continue to operate as normal too.
When is Day Zero?
Thanks to the collaboration of residents, agriculturalists, local businesses and visitors, Day Zero has now been pushed back until 2019, providing the water saving effort continues. This coincides with the winter rainfall, so it is hoped that the ominously sounding D-Day will never come to fruition at all. By limiting water usage to under 50 litres a day, the citizens of Cape Town have successfully reduced their water consumption considerably. Water levels continue to be fiercely monitored as the city rallies to avoid Day Zero altogether. Should the rains not arrive, Day Zero is forecast for the 27th August this year.
What does it mean for visitors?
Contrary to popular belief, it is more important than ever that visitors to continue to travel to South African shores. South Africa Tourism has confirmed that despite the water shortage, Cape Town is still very much open for business. Nonetheless, it is worth bearing in mind that in hotels you will find a reduced laundry service and that some spa facilities are closed, as they work tirelessly to minimise water consumption.
With so much to see and do outside of Cape Town, it is important to remember that South Africa is as equipped to welcome visitors as ever before. Tourism is undoubtedly one of the pillars of the South African economy, creating over 300,000 jobs for local people, so there is a definitive focus on supporting the industry despite the crisis.
As Cape Town is a popular destination to start and end a safari or road trip itinerary, the impact of short stays in the city is negligible. By adopting the mantra ‘save like a local’ and making a conscious effort to avoid water wastage, you will be contributing to a wider effort which is helping to preserve the city of Cape Town for generations to come.