Water Crisis Cape Town: Make water at home

History of the Water Crisis Cape Town

Since 2015 Cape Town has been experiencing a drought of epidemic proportions. At this point water levels in dams around the city began to drop from 71.9% in 2014 to 50.1% in 2015.

Initially the city assumed that rainfall would simply revert back to normal in the following year, especially considering that the droughts experienced in the other provinces of the country all subsided by August 2016. But it did not. Both 2016 and 2017 saw less than average rainfall reducing dams levels down to less than 10% of their usable capacity.  Eventually, in May 2017, the drought was declared as the city’s worst in more than a century.

When the #CapeStorm hit the city in June 2017 many residents rejoiced greatly, hoping that the water crisis was over. But the 50mm of rain the storm provided could not break the back of the drought.

As the drought progressed the City of Cape Town has implemented increasing levels of water restrictions (see our blog post) until on 1 January 2018 the highest water restrictions, level 6 were imposed to dramatically curb consumption to 87 litres per person per day (total of 500 million litres per day).

As can be seen in the image below, dam levels have been steadily decreasing year by year as a result of below average rainfall.

water crisis cape town dam levelsSource: City of Cape Town & National Department of Water and Sanitation

By the beginning of October, following a winter of below average rainfall, the City of Cape Town estimated that it would take 5 months before water levels would be depleted. In addition the City released an emergency water plan which would be implemented in phases based on the levels of water shortage.

Phase 1 – Preservation Restrictions: water rationing through extreme pressure reduction involving water rationing and temporary water cuts.

Phase 2 – Disaster Restrictions:  more intensive water rationing in order to maintain human life and critical services.

Phase 3 – Full-scale Disaster Implementation: occurs when the there is no more surface water for the City to access. Non-surface potable water (sourced from underground supplies like aquifers and springs) will be available for providing citizens with drinking water only. Water to critical services will be significantly reduced. In this phase there is a limited amount of time before the water supply system fails entirely. (see our post for more on the emergency water plan)


Desalination has been touted as the holy grail of alternative water production for Cape Town. This process transforms sea water into potable drinking water. Although the city has been working on getting this process going, in mid October 2017 the City of Cape Town was lambasted by GrahamTek for its complex and onerous tender processes, unnecessarily high levels of bureaucracy, slow pace of contract negotiations, and a seeming lack of urgency nor proper appreciation for the scale required to produce the needed water.  For this reason, on 26 October 2017 the Cape Town city manager was given special powers to make drought related decisions without having to follow the usual statutory procedures.

Causes of the Water Crisis 

The causes of the drought have been identified as a combination of the El Nino weather pattern (especially in the way it affects Southern Africa), climate change, and increased water demand due to population growth. Cape Towns population has grown from 2.4 million people in 1995 to 4.3 million people in 2018 (55% increase), whilst dam storage capacity has only increased by 15% during the same period.

Impact of the Water Crisis

Many Capetonians have sought alternative sources of water like the springs in Newlands, purchasing bottled water at local retailers, installing boreholes, and purchasing large Jojo containers.

Day Zero

It is uncertain what many citizens will do when Day Zero arrives. Borehole water is generally not safe to use for potable means, although it can at times be used for things like bathing, irrigation, and toilet flushing. Most, if not all will need to queue each day in order to acquire the allotted 25L for daily consumption. Although some may have the funds to purchase bottled water, it is uncertain whether retailers will be able to keep up with the demand. (see our post on Day Zero)

Home Solution

One solution that has often been mentioned as a way for households to make it through the Cape Sand Storm is Air Water made from an Atmospheric Water Generator.


water crisis cape town atmospheric water generator


Atmospheric Water Generators produce potable water by extracting moisture from the air. It filters the air and purifies the water using a combination of techniques including Reverse Osmosis and Ultra Violet light in order to produce water of the highest quality. It works in any space, as long as it has access to fresh air and the humidity level is above 25% (Cape Town has an average yearly humidity of between 60 and 80 percent). Units can produce up to 20, 50, 100, or even 1000 litres per day depending on the model.

Although there are a few companies that sell these products in Cape Town their units are very highly priced, their supply is limited, and their ordering process is complicated. In addition, most Capetonians have no clue that these products exist because of a lack of effective marketing.

Introducing Potable

Potable seeks to remedy these problems by offering Atmospheric Water Generators at affordable prices, in quantities that can supply the needs of the market, using an ordering process that is simple and modern. In addition, Potable plans to market its products using measures that place the offerings in front of the citizens that need them most. Click here for more information on the Atmospheric Water Generators offered by Potable.








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