There is nothing like a crisis to bring people together. Here in Cape Town, we have proven this over and over. When our fellow Capetonians are struggling, we rally together. This can mean anything from fundraising, collecting non-perishable foods and clothes, to marching in unison about issues that are important to us. Last year was certainly the year we Capetonians proved to be the best at effecting change.
We were faced with a crisis of epic proportions. Our city was running out of water. We were stuck in a drought that had impacted our water supply to such an extent that we started hearing talk of “Day Zero”. The City was worried. Businesses were worried. Citizens became increasingly worried as certain areas started experiencing water outages. Collectively, we had to do something. And we did!
Facebook support groups were set up where creative water-saving ideas were shared. Friends, neighbours and total strangers started talking to each other about how they were saving water, and how even more could be saved through implementing simple and creative measures. Engineers and entrepreneurs banded together to produce solutions. Businesses relooked the way they used water in their daily operations. Investments were made into technology and facilities to build on water-saving and clean water production. The City made contingency plans, and all the while the world watched on as our crisis played out on television screens and social media the world over.
Cape Town and its amazing citizens did not disappoint. Without missing a beat, Cape Town became the first city in the world to halve its water consumption. We fought off “Day Zero” and we won! What’s more, we haven’t stopped. Sure, after the rains came and our dams started filling up again, consumption increased, but and this is a big BUT, it hasn’t shot up to where it was. Consumers are still taking it slowly with their water usage and it seems that many of the mitigating measures that were put in place, are still being used.
In my home, I haven’t used the hot water tap in my kitchen for more than a year, because I am still washing my dishes in a little basin and I get the hot water from the kettle. I still catch my shower water and use that for the toilet. I still consider how I use water, every time I open the tap. However, the biggest lesson that I learnt during the water crisis is that having running water, in my house and at my fingertips, is a privilege. For many Capetonians this privilege will never again be taken for granted.
Water connects us all. From before we are born, we are surrounded by water. Our bodies are made up of about 75% water. We are dependent on water for survival, without it we cannot live. This is a universal truth for each and every person on this great, big beautiful Earth of ours. Yet, worldwide about 844 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. South Africa is the 39th driest country in the world. We have less water available per person than Botswana and Namibia. In 2015, we received only 66% of our annual rainfall. None of these statistics bode well for our country’s water resilience, but we are who we have proven to be. We are strong, resilient and can stand together to overcome a crisis. We just need to put our minds and willpower to work. And we just need to do and keep doing what we can to save our precious resource. We have done it before. We can do it again. And we can keep on doing it.
Happy World Water Day, South Africa.
Learn about smart choices
You can learn more about wise water management at our Smart Living Challenge Zone. The Water touch screen asks visitors to answer a series of questions in order to stop leaking pipes and taps that are represented in an animated plumbing system. A virtual water container fills up with when questions are answered correctly. It requires multiple visitors to work as a team to win the game. Stop the leaks; save water; work together!