Notes From the Road

Cape Town Watered Down

Many have wondered how the Cape Town water situation will affect Remote Year and vice versa. Local Experience Manager Josh Swart breaks it down.
Josh Swart is a Remote Year Experience Manager in Cape Town, South Africa. Experience Managers provide the best recommendations to Remotes (Remote Year participants), setting up Tracks™ and ensuring  that everyone is experiencing the city to its fullest. Josh was born and raised in Cape Town, and considers himself a man of many passions including music, hiking, wakeboarding, wine, family and travel - not necessarily in that order!

As of recently, South Africa (and more specifically Cape Town) has been making headlines for an array of reasons. We are excited to welcome our new President, Cyril Ramaphoza, who has already made massive changes to his cabinet and has set out welcome policies that are set to boost our economy by potentially doubling tourism statistics.

Remote Year has comfortably made Cape Town one of its new homes, and our first group to visit - called Sonder - soaked up summer in the blissful February. The word on many mouths, however, is definitely the water situation. Being the talk of the town, local radio station SmileFM initiated the Water Warrior pledge inviting locals and visitors alike to join the water saving efforts and conversation around conscious water use worldwide.

What is the current water situation in Cape Town?

Cape Town is in its third year of drought after consecutive dry winters brought on by El Niño and we now go through our day-to-day activities in a very water-conscious manner. With level 6B restrictions in place for the first time in over two decades, we now reward someone for not flushing the toilet (if it’s yellow let it mellow). We are limited to 50 liters per person per day, and things like washing cars and watering gardens is now temporarily illegal. The City of Cape Town helps guide daily water consumption (see chart below) but this concentrated effort is taken on by all - locals and visitors alike. A two-minute shower is now standard procedure and using a bucket to catch the excess water makes for a far more rewarding flush when reused in the toilet. We aim for 50 liters of water per person per day. I promise it’s possible and my green friends still get their H20.

The city with over four million citizens currently consumes around 583 million liters of water a day, above the targeted 450 million liters a day. While our government is working on maintaining and upgrading our water supply system, we need to remain forward-looking and solutions-based rather than pointing fingers. We look to gain more water from underground water supplies, rainwater collection systems, spring water sources and from our farmers (who have private dams and borehole), some of whom have already donated large amounts of water. We can now look forward to an additional 250 million liters of water a day when these solutions are implemented. Good thing we have so many beaches for the desalination projects.

It is a relief to hear that our estimated ’Day Zero” has been postponed twice from 12 March to 9 July, due to sporadic rainfall and the cohesive efforts of all citizens. We are not out of the woods just yet, but winter is scheduled to arrive in July bringing our season of rain, which puts most at ease. If Day Zero were to arrive, it doesn’t mean that the taps run dry. It simply means that the implementation of water supply grid shutdowns would be scheduled and communicated by the local government.

Remote Year in Cape Town

As a group of travelling remote workers who are making Cape Town their home for the month, Remote Year has been extremely conscious of our water consumption. We are aware that we are utilizing local resources and have made a considered effort to keep our usage levels low sharing water consumption guides, supplying buckets and encouraging collecting water at springs.

Spurred on by the water shortage that the city is experiencing, Remotes have pledged to become Water Warriors (a water saving initiative from local radio station SmileFM), meaning that each of them will endeavor to use only 50 liters of water a day as per city restrictions. With this continued effort, we believe that we can inspire others to do the same and have a global effect on water conservation.

Remote Year also prioritizes contributing positively to local communities through our Positive Impact projects and Tracks™. One Positive Impact project that we’re contributing to aid in the water efforts is building a greenhouse in the townships and installing hydroponic growing systems that use a tenth of the amount of water yielding the same, if not better, agricultural results. Other projects have resulted in some 30 children getting mattresses for their afternoon nap at their kindergarten, not to mention the piloting of three business ventures where our vendors have developed a Remote Year Track experience (like painting from a rooftop and a township cycling tour) into profit-generating experiences beyond Remote Year. Vendor remuneration goes to feeding families and communities that rely solely on the tourism industry. These derivative benefits of Remote Year residing in Cape Town are a focal point of our National Government in terms of boosting tourism. This tourism boost is taken into account when calculating projected water consumption levels, so visitors are continually encouraged to visit the Mother City.

Where do we go from here?

Amidst this dry situation, we implore all tourists visiting Cape Town and cities around the world to join the pledge to become Water Warriors . We see this as an opportunity to learn to move from a space of consuming 350 liters (the average amount of consumption in the USA) to that of 50 liters a day to be the better stewards of our resources before irreparable damage is done.  In light of bettering our global citizenship, we hope the situation down here will inspire people around the world to think twice before leaving the tap running while brushing your teeth or taking a long shower at full pressure.

Cape Town Water Guidelines

Should you wish to do more than “talk the talk”, join our Water Warrior pledge and commit to taking two-minute showers for the month of March. Once you see it’s possible, up the ante and carry it through to year’s end. Together, we can take this opportunity to spread awareness of conscious water consumption worldwide and the silver lining will far outweigh the cloud on which it rides.

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