As Joburg faces its own Day Zero, here is what Capetonians learnt about living with little water

  • Rand Water has announced Stage 2 water restrictions for some Gauteng residents this week.
  • Cape Town was staring Day Zero in the face in 2017 and 2018 due to a severe drought.
  • Capetonians came up with creative ways to avoid disaster, all but one of which translates to Gauteng.

The Day Zero clock was ticking for Cape Town in 2017 and 2018 due to a severe drought, inadequate supply management, and government failure. In February 2018, when dam levels were at their lowest, the City of Cape Town bumped restrictions up to Level 6B, which meant everyone could use only 50 litres of water per person per day.

While politicians and the business community had complicated ideas to replenish supplies, such as harvesting fog, desalination of sea water and dragging an iceberg over from the Southern Ocean – none of which were implemented – ordinary Capetonians got creative to prevent Day Zero, and dodge the severe fines the City introduced for transgressors.

Consumption dropped to levels that saved the city until the winter rains finally washed Day Zero away.

With some in Gauteng in Stage 2 water restrictions, and taps in parts of Johannesburg remaining dry, here is what Capetonians learnt about living with very little water.

Sun-wash your clothing

Sunshine is free and a good dose will remove the worst stink from your outfit.

Re-use the water from your washing machine for hand washing

You can use it on clothes and on hands.

Cut your hair short

And use 2-in-1 shampoo, or leave-in conditioner. It is far more pleasant than dry shampoo.

Stop shaving

Stubble and a dirty car are symbols of good citizenship during a water crisis.

Swap your dog for a cat

OK maybe don’t swap, but cats drink less water than dogs so if you are looking for a pet right now, adopt a cat.

Shower together.

It is fun and saves a good 30 litres of water per day. If you don’t have a shower buddy, do a bucket shower.

Get a solar camping shower

They cost about R200 and hold about 20 litres of water, just enough for a shower. Leave it in the sun to heat up and hang on your shower head.

Water the plants with the pasta water

Just go easy on the oil and salt.

A good old brick or two in the cistern

Saving on every flush saves many litres of water.

And then the most Capetonian of hints: Go on a hike and fetch water on the mountain

Oh wait, you don’t have a mountain. Sorry!

If you do have some money to spend, invest in low-flow taps and shower heads, and get a well point, suggests Denton Ingham-Brown, who did a good deal of retrofitting during the drought. He says these, as well as getting water-wise plants and a pool cover, set him back less than R5,000.

Something else that worked well for Cape Town, was the public shaming of water wasters. The city published maps on its website where you could see how much water your neighbours were consuming. It was not meant to be a tool for naming and shaming but aimed to show good behaviour. Either way, it worked.