How South Africans Live on Only 50 Liters of Water Per Day

CAPE TOWN – The water crisis in South Africa continues unabated. Officials have declared a state of emergency, but that is, arguably, because of the danger not only to the citizens but also because of the rising and potential damage to the economy. Moody’s, the international credit rating agency, estimates agricultural production in the Western Cape will drop by 20% this year and that it will cost a billion dollars for the country “to build sustainable infrastructure and sanitation developments over the next five years” because of the drought.

As of this writing, the reservoirs serving the Western Cape are on 19.6 percent full. Last week they were at 20.4 percent. A year ago, they were at 28.8%

The Western Cape government has put Cape Town and several municipalities on Level 6 water restrictions, limiting the use of water to 50 liters per person per day – including at home and at work.

To put that into perspective, residents are allowed:

  • One shower a day using no more than 10 liters if also washing your hair. The limit is five liters without a hair wash.
  • One machine wash of laundry per week (10 liters).
  • One liter of water for cooking and meal preparation.
  • Three liters for drinking water, coffee, or tea.
  • One liter for pets.
  • Two liters for brushing teeth and washing hands.
  • One sink washing of dishes per day or one “economy load” of dishwasher washing every third day (nine liters).
  • Five liters for house cleaning every two days.
  • One toilet flush per day.

The situation in Cape Town is still uncertain. Day Zero will happen when the reservoirs reach 13.5 percent of capacity. If that day arrives, access to tap water will no longer be available and residents will have to visit one of 200 distribution states to collect their daily allocation of water which will, at that point, be reduced to 25 liters per person.

Officials say that the only way to avoid Day Zero is by strict adherence to the current restrictions.


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