What should I know about the water crisis in Cape Town?
Update October 17, 2018: There has been a lot of rain last winter and the dams are currently on average 76% filled. In Cape Town restrictions on the use of water remain in force but for now there is no longer a 'Day Zero' There is plenty of drinking water everywhere and you can shower anywhere.
Our guesthouse has its own water supply and we are therefore not dependent on the municipal water supply.
Cape Town had a water crisis due to a serious water shortage.
South Africa and in particular the Western Cape, is experiencing the worst drought in more than 100 years.
What are the consequences and what does that mean for my stay in South Africa?
We have listed the five most important facts:
1) The so-called day-zero (Day-Zero, pushed out to 2019) only applies to connections to the municipal water supply.
The City of Cape Town recently (beginning of March 2018) announced a significant delay for Day Zero. Pushed out to 2019 means the taps will not run dry this year and if the expected rain falls in the winter the dams will fill up again.
In South Africa it is customary for the somewhat more spacious, more rural households or businesses to have their own water supply via so-called boreholes and not dependent on municipal water. Through these "boreholes" the water, sometimes at great depth, is pumped up out of the ground.
Our guesthouse also has its own water supply and we are therefore not dependent on the municipal water supply.
2) On or after Day-Zero there is no more water from the faucets of the municipal water supply and one has to go to so-called distribution points.
Up to Day-Zero, water restrictions apply to ensure that consumption is reduced and Day-Zero can be postponed. Up to now, this has not been really successful and the restrictions are only becoming stricter and the pressure on the pipes is reduced each time. After Day-Zero, the population is divided into groups that receive a fixed amount per person at certain distribution points.
For our guesthouse, with our own water supply, these rules do not apply, but there are other (restrictive) rules, but they are often impractical in practice.
This means that we can consume unrestricted water? No, we do our own way and have our own rules to save water.
3) After Day-Zero the dams have dried up and the water comes from alternative sources.
For the water supply, the Municipality of Cape Town mainly gets the water out of dams around Cape Town. The largest dam (Theewaterskloofdam) is almost empty and the last bit is unusable by the mud to be able to pump to the pipes. The municipality of Cape Town has started several projects in the past year to extract water from alternative sources.
The most important are desalination (salt from seawater), reuse of wastewater (water treatment) and boreholes. Despite dozens of projects, the total water production is still insufficient to keep the taps running.
4) Do I have to cancel my holiday to South Africa?
Yes and no. As mentioned above, only the densely populated areas are dependent on municipal water. We have, in our guesthouse, so far, no reason to assume that we will be without water through our boreholes and are not dependent on distribution points either.
Not all areas in South Africa suffer from a water scarcity. In particular the Western Cape and Eastern Cape have the worst drought. Remarkably enough, not every area is dry. For example, Grabouw and Overberg (for us just around the corner and only 60km from Cape Town) have had a lot more rain. The dams are almost full there! We are in Gordons Bay against the Hottentots Holland mountains (Helderberg) and the Steenbrasdam, which is located there, is full!
In summary, Cape Town center and the densely populated areas around it are risky in terms of water. Further away, it differs per location. The Northeast (Johannesburg) and East (Durban) of South Africa hardly have any problems.
5) Can I recover cancellation fees from guesthouses and hotels?
No. The guest houses and hotels will invoke force majeure when they don't have water anymore. What will happen is that a guest house or hotel will help you find an alternative. If that does not work, then (at least, that's how it should be done) they will refund the deposit. How the flight costs can be recovered in case of a cancellation is a matter of travel insurance.
How further with the beautiful Cape?
The drought has to do with the global climate change. Normally, in the Cape Winter, in a few weeks, there is more than enough rain in the dams to survive the rest of the year. In the summer there is only an occasional shower.
South Africa depends on the ENSO effect, ie the El Niño - Southern Oscillation or ENSO effect.
Along the equator in the eastern Pacific Ocean, in the course of some years, a strong warming of normally cool seawater occurs that affects the weather in large parts of the world, including sometimes Europe. This phenomenon is called El Niño
La Niña is physically the opposite effect. This occurs when unusually cold seawater is measured at the Equator. El Niño and La Niña are both signs of the El Niño - Southern Oscillation or ENSO effect.
We have the most fierce El Nino ever behind us and hope that La Nina will bring us a lot of rain in the coming winter.
This country is too beautiful to dry out but we are being tested!
Any questions? Use our contact page to send an email and otherwise see you soon!
Peter en Carola van der Gugten
Owners Wind-Rose Guest House
Oh yes, no rights can be derived from this article in any way!