As Locals Conserve, Cape Town Briefs Visitors On Water Crisis | KNKX

As Locals Conserve, Cape Town Briefs Visitors On Water Crisis

Feb 8, 2018

KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley calls Cape Town, South Africa, his favorite place on the planet. He’s led many trips there over his years of guiding group tours.

But right now the city faces a serious water crisis. Some news reports say Cape Town could run out of fresh water as early as mid-April, though that date – Day Zero, as it’s being called – seems to be moving later in the year as locals heed warnings to conserve.

Brumley called his friend and fellow guide Brian Nel, in Cape Town, for the view from the ground.

Nel says a drought is certainly to blame, but he also sees the city's rapid growth as a contributing factor. 

“Progressively over the last few years, we’ve had more people arriving in the city and less planning to provide them with water,” he said. “It’s all caught up with us.”

When Nel moved to Cape Town in 1990, the metro area had about a million people. Now it’s about four times that many.

“We’ve been very fortunate that Day Zero keeps getting pushed back,” Nel said. “By the time Day Zero comes around we should have our first rainfall.”

Conservation efforts are strict. People are restricted to 50 liters of water a day – about 12 or 13 gallons. They’ve been asked to take two-minute showers. Visitors to Cape Town should expect to hear lots of advisories and warnings about how to conserve water and help handle the crisis.

Meanwhile, Nel says desalination plants are coming online to make it possible to drink ocean water.

As for Nel, he’s adjusting.

“I have learned to respect water a lot more, which is a great education,” he said. “We’ve consumed a lot less water, we’ve bought chemicals for our dishes so we don’t have to use as much water. We are using hand sanitizers, so it’s a great education as well.”


"Going Places" is 88.5's weekly exploration of travel. Our travel expert, Matthew Brumley, is co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small group travel to clients including KNKX. Never miss an episode again. Subscribe to Going Places with iTunes Google Play or Stitcher.