Rain, Rain, Come Our Way

Colleen Morrison University of Cape Town, South Africa


April 30, 2018

Have you ever taken into consideration the amount of water that you use in a week or even in a single day? The average U.S. family uses 300 gallons of water per day. 300!

Given that Earth Day just passed recently, I thought it would be beneficial to talk about the ways in which Cape Town has been affected by the drought that is occurring, and ways in which you can save water and decrease your daily water usage.

Cape Town Water Crisis

Back in January of this year, the announcement of Day Zero was made. Day Zero was announced due to the “ the real possibility that at the rate Cape Town was using water, demand really would outstrip supply and the city would run out of water.” Day Zero was said to happen in May, then June, and now they have scrapped Day Zero altogether. Cape Town is in its worst drought in 100 years, and several factors such as, “...a growing population, ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) and a rapidly changing climate” are also contributing to the stressed water supply. “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report, long-term climate models indicate a significant drying trend that could reduce annual rainfall by up to 40%.” In summation, the reality of the water crisis is that it’s a long-term problem that needs much attention to sustain the city’s limited water resources.

How does the water crisis affect me, a student of UCT?

When first arriving in Cape Town, I knew little about the severity of the water crisis. The first week or so was overwhelming hearing the statistics and realizing the fear surrounding Day Zero, and what that could mean for the study abroad programs here in Cape Town (and of course for the residents of Cape Town as well). The biggest change that I had to make to my water usage habits would have to be taking 60-90 second showers. I also changed my other water usage habits as well. Instead of drinking from the tap, I make frequent trips to the store to pick up a couple liters of water. I started only using the dishes I needed and making sure to wash all my dishes at the same time. The UCT residence that I stay in has a dual flush toilet which helps with the amount of water that is used per flush. You know what they say, “If it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow let it mellow.” Besides that, it doesn’t have a huge impact on my daily life. I just make a more conscious effort to use less water.

Five Ways To Decrease Your Water Usage:

1. Turn Off The Faucet

One of the most obvious ways is to please turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. To me this is simple but for some reason many struggle with this. The small act of turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth can save a family up to 10 gallons of water.

2. Take a Shorter Shower

I know we all love to do our deepest thinking and loudest singing in the shower, but it is important to take into consideration how much water you are wasting during that time. Being advised to take showers for approximately 60-90 seconds has really changed my showering habits. I never realized how much time I wasted in the shower and how much water. Cutting down your shower by just a few minutes can make a big difference.

3. Fuller loads of Laundry

If you save up your dirty laundry and do a load once per week, for example, you can decrease how much water you use.  “Washing a full machine load of clothes uses less water and energy than 2 half-loads.” Saves you money too!

4. Reuse Water

The water you use from cooking or steaming your vegetables can also be used to water your garden… killing two birds with one stone. Also, if you ever find yourself waiting for water to warm up (sink, shower, etc.), you can collect the running water and also use that to water your plants.

5. Limit How Many Dishes You Use

Limiting the number of dishes you use will decrease the amount of water you’ll need to wash dishes. A good rule of thumb is to only use what you need. Don’t use a plate just to eat a couple of cookies off of or use a billion pots and pans to make dinner.

If you are interested in learning more about the water crisis or ways to save water, check out the references listed below. 


"13 Best Ways To Save Water | Friends Of The Earth." Friends of the Earth. N.p., 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2018. https://friendsoftheearth.uk/natural-resources/13-best-ways-save-water

"ANALYSIS: Why Day Zero Was Scrapped." News24. N.p., 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2018. https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/analysis-why-day-zero-was-scrapped-20180319

"Conserving Water While You Brush." SolsticeBenefits. N.p., 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2018. https://www.solsticebenefits.com/resources/resources-article.aspx?id=13

"How We Use Water | US EPA." US EPA. N.p., 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2018. https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water

Van Dam, Derek. "Cape Town Drought Is Worst In Over A Century." CNN. N.p., 2018. Web. 30 Apr. 2018. https://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/31/africa/cape-town-drought/index.html