Three flushes and you're out - water saving in Cape Town just got real

04 September 2017 - 15:35 By Aron Hyman
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The drought stricken City of Cape Town has asked residents to get used to the ''new normal" of just 87 litres of water per person per day. But what can you do with 87 litres of water?

If the city's water calculator is anything to go by you could:

  • Have a 4-minute shower (40 litres) even though the city recommends a two-minute shower. Playing your favourite song while bathing is one way of keeping track of the time.
  • Three toilet flushes (27 litres). The city has recommended that people “only flush when necessary". Said Xanthea Limberg‚ mayoral committee member for water: “Don’t use it as a dustbin. If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown‚ flush it down.''
  • Wash the dishes once (9 litres). It will also reduce the moaning from children tasked with this chore.
  • Wash your hands and face once (3 litres). Wet wipes could come in handy.
  • Brush your teeth twice (0.3 litres). Don't forget to floss.
  • Prepare two cooked meals (1.2-litres). You will have to do with eating out once you've reached your quota.
  • Drink seven glasses of water (1.75 litres). This is less than the 2 litres so many experts advise.
  • And give your pet one large bowl of water (1 litre). If your dog doesn't finish his water‚ you could.

This comes to about 84 litres of water per day. This calculator is available online to guide residents.

You can check whether you are within the daily recommended limit on


On Sunday Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille introduced Level 5 water restrictions which will be aimed at curbing water usage by commercial property owners by 20%.

Households with excessive water usage will also be forced to pay for smart water meters which the city will use to keep their usage down to 350 litres a day.

De Lille warned that people who use more than 20‚000 litres of water per month will be subject to a “very high fine which is yet to be determined”.

But it is not all doom and gloom. The city has been looking at ways of increasing water resilience and using technologies like sea-water desalination plants‚ as climate change is expected to turn Cape Town into a drier place.

“Measures to drive down consumption to 500 million litres of water per day are supplemented by other measures to augment the supply of water from non-surface water options by up to 500 million litres of water per day‚ which are currently under way‚” said De Lille.

With the tourist season starting in October the City and Cape Town and Western Cape Tourism‚ Trade‚ and Investment (Wesgro) are encouraging hotels to take water-saving measures.

Wesgro spokesperson Colin Wardle said they were also encouraging tourists who arrive in Cape Town to see the rest of the Western Cape to ease pressure on the city.

“At the moment the restrictions are localised to the City of Cape Town with the other five regions within the province coping much better with the current climate change issue.”

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