Living in a Drought

Calli Umipig University of Cape Town, South Africa


March 15, 2017

It seems like yesterday that I was lounging on my parents’ couch. I still lounge on the couch, but I do it with a view of Table Mountain and a palm tree in my front lawn. Cape Town, thus far, been a dream come true. Upon arriving, we were initially overwhelmed by the attractive qualities of living abroad. The weather is beautiful, I live in a mansion, and I’ve been able to meet so many incredible human beings. To a tourist Cape Town could be as close to paradise as one can get, but its residents have a much different perspective.

One of the first real doses of reality for myself and others about living in Africa was the drought. Cape Town is currently in the middle of a very serious drought with emergency measures in place right now. Two days after arriving the Mayor declared the city a disaster area, which is a declaration valid for three months. While the dam that sustains Cape Town is currently at a 30% capacity, the least 10% is considered unusable which means it is currently sitting at a 20% capacity.

With 105 days left of usable water, many residents are resorting to extreme water conservation efforts. Myself and other Arcadia students are not exempt from these struggles. We take part in lowering our water consumption and doing what we can to conserve water so we can continue to live here. From taking two minute showers to turning water off during peak hours, I have begun to view water with a new perspective.

Back home, I would take showers for as long as I pleased and let my faucet run when I brushed my teeth. My dad would water the grass to make it green and healthy when it didn’t rain enough in the summer. Water was so accessible to me that I didn’t have to think about how much I used or where it came from. To many, this basic need has turned into a privilege. It’s embarrassing for me to think of how much water I wasted in my life compared to others who have lived this way for all of theirs.

Overall, the residents and officials are optimistic that we will avoid running out of water as we are entering the rainy season. Hopefully, our dam will collect enough water for its residents once they enter the next dry season.  For now though, Cape Town is our home and we intend to do our part to ensure access to water to everyone.


South Africa Semester