Be a Capetonian, save water

Christine McGinn
Cape Town's Day Zero, when the water runs out, has been pushed back after cuts in consumption

Capetonians don't flush the toilet unless it's a number two.

"If it's yellow let it mellow," a City of Cape Town poster reads.

It's the official slogan behind the water saving campaign to prevent dreaded Day Zero, when dam levels hit 13.5 per cent and the city taps will be turned off.

The water crisis unfolding in the second most populous South African city has seen the government cut daily water use to just 50L per person, per day.

The city suggests people use up to 10L for showering each day, flush the toilet once a day, do one load of laundry a week, clean the house every second day and use a dishwasher every three days to meet the target.

Businesses must reduce their consumption by 45 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2015 before the drought, under the level 6B water restrictions.

Those using more than their share will be fined.

"It is not just our problem, so people need to use wisely," More Quarters Hotel manager Justin Mpoyi tells AAP.

Topping up or refilling pools, using water features or irrigation with municipal water is banned and no new landscaping or sports fields are to be built, unless they use non-drinking water.

Some swimming pools have even been coated in oil to prevent evaporation.

Bath plugs have been pulled out, showers are the order of the day and guests are encouraged to reuse towels in hotels across Cape Town.

Many taps at public bathrooms have been taken out, or turned off, with hand sanitiser provided instead.

South Africans are determined to turn around the tide of poor water management with proactive measures and humour to conserve the resource.

In fact, the dreaded day keeps getting pushed back thanks to higher than expected water levels with the council saying on June 28 they'll also be fine to get through summer 2019.

"This is due to the amount of water already in the dams, our intense water demand management programmes, our unrelenting communication, awareness and the behavioural change it has effected over the past two years, as well as the continued support and sacrifice of Team Cape Town," council deputy mayor Alderman Ian Neilson said on June 28 in a statement.

But restrictions and tariffs will still remain in place.

The One & Only resort in Cape Town is one of many businesses doing their bit to conserve water. It is turning off water features, putting in water-wise plants and removing water-based spa treatments.

"Cape Town residents have been incredible in conserving their personal water usage. These efforts and the winter rains have helped prevent the dams running dry," One & Only Cape Town general manager Richard Lyon says.

The resort will introduce a waste-water treatment plant to be used on the garden and in the air conditioning unit, while a desalination plant will be built to fill the pool.

The projects are expected to reduce the resort's municipal water consumption by more than 70,000 litres per day, Mr Lyon says.

A desalination plant is also expected to come online this year at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town to add millions of litres of water each day.

Even Mother Nature is doing her bit.

Smiles are plastered on locals' faces as the rain pounds on roofs, soaking the city and the dams in early June when AAP visits as part of a Bench Africa tour.

Yet not all locals agree with the government calling out a water crisis.

"D Day was exaggerated. It was never that bad," Ilios Travel guide Avril O'Connor says.

Franschhoek Wine Tram general manager Brett Garner says the water crisis had to be created to get those in power to take action to save water.

"I don't believe there is a water crisis," he says.

"Water is scarce. But that is true for South Africa as a whole. We have to be a lot more conscious of the fact we shouldn't be wasting water.

"This has been very good for us to get a bit of a wake-up call to remind us that it is scarce."

He said it was possible to run out of water if people continued to waste it, but not if people were responsible.

Yet the city states on its website it is "false to claim that Day Zero is just some scare campaign", rather "the water crisis is real".

Capetonians' greatest weapon to beat Day Zero is their willingness to adapt and change their ways. So be a local and let it mellow.

For more information on the water restrictions visit,


GETTING THERE: South African Airlines flies from Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane via Perth, with a transfer in Johannesburg. Fares start from about $A1075 return in economy or $A3809 in business during September from Melbourne. Go to for prices for specific dates.

STAYING THERE: More Quarters Hotel in Cape Town has 22 self-contained rooms and the four-bedroom Redcliffe House for travellers who want to live like a local. It's just a 10 minute trip to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront or the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Prices start from about $A241 per night for the luxury double room. For more, visit

One & Only Cape Town is another vibrant resort with spectacular views of Table Mountain, with rooms starting about $A898 for a Marina Room King. For more,

GETTING AROUND: Illios Travel takes visitors on escorted day tours, has chauffeur drive services available and private transfers. For details, check out

The writer travelled as a guest of Bench Africa to celebrate its 50th anniversary in a hosted media tour.