In case you haven’t heard – Cape Town is in a crisis. A water crisis. And it isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve had water restrictions and strict bylaws for many years, but the reality is that we are now facing empty dams and potentially no water in our taps in the next couple of months.

Level 3B restrictions from 1 February 2017

The City of Cape Town’s Council has approved the implementation of tougher water restrictions from 1 February 2017. Among others, the use of potable water for non-essential use will be further restricted. "The Level 3b restrictions come as a result of the severe drought that is being experienced and the repeated failure to reach the intended water savings target of 800 million litres of collective water use per day. As at 23 January 2017, the average consumption was 80 million litres above this target and dam levels had dropped to 40.4%. It must be borne in mind that it is very difficult to extract the remaining 10% of a dam’s capacity," the City said in a press release.

To make matters worse, the South African Weather Service has predicted a reduced likelihood of chances of above normal rainfall country-wide between January and April 2017. And the National Department of Water and Sanitation said that dam levels could take more than three years to recover.

Here are the changes to Cape Town water restrictions from 1 February (but you should probably start observing them today):

Level 3 restrictions Level 3B restrictions

Watering/irrigation (with drinking water from municipal supply) of gardens, lawns, flower beds and other plants, vegetable gardens, sports fields, parks and other open spaces is allowed only if using a bucket or watering can. No use of hosepipes or automatic sprinkler systems is allowed. Watering times are not restricted, however, residents are urged to limit their watering to the mornings and evenings.

Watering/irrigation (with municipal drinking water) of flower beds, lawns, vegetables and other plants, sports fields, parks and other open spaces is allowed only on Tuesdays and Saturdays before 09:00 or after 18:00 for a maximum of one hour per day per property and only if using a bucket or watering can. No use of hosepipes or any sprinkler systems allowed.

No watering/irrigation is allowed within 24 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities/customers making use of boreholes, treated effluent water, spring water or well-points are not exempt.

No watering/irrigation is allowed within 48 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities/customers making use of boreholes, treated effluent water, spring water or well-points are not exempt.

Washing (using potable water) of vehicles and boats only is allowed if using a bucket.

No washing of vehicles or boats using municipal drinking water is allowed at residential/business/industrial properties. Vehicles and boats must be washed with non-potable water or washed at a commercial carwash.

Be a Smile Water Warrior

According to the 2011 census, Cape Town has 3.7 million citizens. If each person does their little bit, we can ensure that we all have sufficient water.

After reading this blog, have a look at Smile 904 FM’s Smile Water Warriors initiative (link goes to Facebook group) – here, you can pledge to save water, chat with other water warriors, share ideas and water-saving tools, and join in the “Waterless Wednesdays” campaign. We salute Smile 904 FM for throwing their weight behind the water crisis. 

You’d be surprised how easy it actually is to do your bit!

Cape Town’s water is supplied by 44 dams that have a collective maximum storage capacity of 1 870.4 million cubic metres. On 26 January the average dam levels in our province stood at only 40.4%. 

The rainy season cannot come quickly enough, and hopefully it will. I have always done what I can to save water, but at the beginning of last year I decided to be even more mindful of my water usage, wastage and savings. What follows is some of the things I have implemented and have made part of my daily routine in order to save water.

Pretty and pragmatic

Save water in the bathroom 

I have always closed the tap while brushing my teeth. Now I have also introduced a little blue glass that I fill halfway and then use this to rinse my toothbrush and my mouth. No more rinsing under a running tap.

I use the water I catch from my shower to either flush my toilet, water the garden or wash the dog (he gets rinsed with a bucket of clean water). By doing this, I have managed to go a week at a time without using potable water to flush my loo!

“Did you know? You can save between 12 and 18 litres of water if you turn the tap off while brushing your teeth.”

I also catch the cold water that comes out of the tap before the water turns hot. This water is perfectly clean and can be used to fill the kettle, the pets’ water bowls, the car’s windscreen washer tank, to cook some pasta or to do the dishes.

“Did you know? One flush of the toilet can use anything between 6 and 12 litres of water, depending on the age and size of the cistern.”

Save water in the kitchen

You don't need all the space for your dishes! Reduce volumes, save water

My kitchen sink is beautiful and I really love it, but when I installed it, I did not take into account its size. It’s really too big for one person’s needs. So I have placed a smaller basin in the sink and I use that to do my dishes. After the dishes have been done and the water has cooled down, that water goes into the garden. I can do this because I use environmentally friendly cleaning products.

I have stopped using hot water from the geyser to do the dishes. I boil a kettle - which uses less electricity than the geyser (using less electricity means indirectly saving water, too) - and use this water for the dishes. This also eliminates those pesky moments when I realise that I have yet again forgotten to switch the geyser on!

Save water with pets

I collect all the leftover water from my pets’ water bowls. This water is either deposited into the garden, or is used to clean my furry friends’ food bowls – after which, the water goes into the garden. I have a small two-litre bucket in my kitchen for this, and to hold any other water that might unnecessarily go down the drain.


I have stopped washing my car. This does compel me to keep the car’s windscreen washer tank full.  

#DriveDirtyZA. It's a thing. 

Let’s get this movement going! Stop washing your car and write the #DriveDirtyZA hashtag in the dust on your car’s back window.

Save water with families

Make sure the dishwasher is stacked to the brim before you turn it on 

I realise that these measures aren’t always possible when there is a whole family to consider. So, I asked some of my colleagues what they are doing at home to save water.

Alichia Nortje, Marketing Manager (4 pax household)

In our house, if you have had a swim, you don’t need a shower and when you shower, the bucket joins you.

The dishwasher is packed to absolute capacity before it gets switched on.

“Did you know? According to current water restriction in Cape Town, the use of portable or temporary play pools is prohibited.”

Jacinta Subjee, Marketing Coordinator (5 pax household)

We don’t own a hosepipe, so we’ve always used a bucket.

A couple of months ago my daughter stuck a sign on our toilet: “If it is yellow, let it mellow. If it is brown, flush it down.” We stick to this. We’ve also cut down the number of times we do dishes and our laundry. Full loads only.

Kim Walker, Sponsorship Coordinator (5 pax household)

Dry your towels in the sun and re-use them! 

We’ve become very aware of unnecessary clothing and dish washing. Where a plate or cup can just be wiped and dried, we go that route. Clothing can be worn a couple of times before washing – unless it has been used for physical activity or on a hot day. Or to eat something with tomato sauce on it… The kids’ swimming costumes (from school training) are rinsed in the buckets during showers rather than put through the washing machine. Towels are also placed outside to dry and be reused a few times before being washed.

Bianca Engel, Deputy Head of Education (4 pax household, plus a one-year old)

Succulents are gorgeous, low-maintenance and water-wise

Over the December holiday we had one or two days of good rainfall. My father and I collected the rainwater from our roof - filling about 10 20-litre buckets, which he used instead of the borehole water, to water the garden. Besides a fairly large vegetable and herb garden – most of the other plants are indigenous plants that don’t require a lot of water.

“Did you know? According to current water restrictions in Cape Town, no watering/irrigation is allowed within 48 hours of rainfall that provides adequate saturation. Facilities/customers making use of boreholes, treated effluent water, spring water or well-points are not exempt. ”

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!

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