Proper Distribution of Water in South Africa during the Cape Town water crisis.


Cape Town Water Crisis and the Efficient Use of Scarce Water

By: Peter Ferrara

Cape Town Water Crisis Overview

As far back as 1990, water scarcity was talked about in South Africa, with an article in the Cape Times predicting the city would run out of water in 2007

Since then rapid population growth has played a role in the water conversation

From 1995 to 2018 Cape Town’s Population grew 79%

Population not sits at close to 4 million people including the greater metropolitan area

2014: cities water supply is 71.9%

2015: dropped all the way to 50% total capacity

May 2017: water levels reach low of 10% capacity

Water Restriction Timeline

South Africa experienced a once in a century drought from 2015-late 2017

Water restrictions

Jan. 1, 2016- level 2

Nov. 1, 2016- level 3, no use of hoses or sprinklers in residential areas

Jun. 1 2017- level 4, water usage limited to 100L/person/day

Sep. 3, 2017- level 5, water usage limited to 50L/person/day

By Christmas Day 0 was set for April 21 2018

> Day 0 is the day when municiple water supplies would largely be shut off and residents would have to rely on 140 water collection points throughout the city to collect their water ration of 25 L/person/day

> Day 0 was eventually moved back to May, then June, then July and eventually postponed to an undisclosed date in 2019

> while the intense drought has largely finished Cape town in not yet free of water scarcity


According to the Tourism Satellite Account for South Africa report, tourism directly contributed to 2.9% of GDP in 2016

This may seem small however, the tourism sector is now a larger GDP driver than Agriculture

Despite pressure from the drought, the tourism sector saw a net gain of 40,000 jobs from 2012 to 2016

Additionally it is hard to fully estimate how much revenue tourism generates because certain actions by tourists are categorized differently in GDP (buses and trains fall under transportation)

Where does Cape Town go from here?

While the drought may be considered over, Cape Town and South Africa in general most take further precautions to prevent a crisis like this happening again

Recognizing that tourism is an essential driver of South Africa’s GDP, Cape Town must include its water usage in any and all water conservation methods moving forward.

Possible solutions

Desalination Centers

Cape Town has already released funding to build 3 emergency desalination plants

More Efficient Dam Drainage Systems

Roughly 10% of their main water supply is unusable because it is too difficult to drain from the dam


Flynn, Jaqueline. “How Cape Town Defeated Day Zero-for Now.” Pulitzer Center, 23 Oct. 2018

“Chapter 9.” Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, by Thomas H. Tietenberg, Taylor & Francis Group, 2018, pp. 208–212.

Africa, Statistics South. “How Important Is Tourism to the South African Economy?” Statistics South Africa, 26 Mar. 2018,