Stop-start showers, dry shampoo and plenty of hand sanitizer: How Cape Town is weaning itself off water
This story is part of our series Water at Risk, which looks at Cape Town's drought and some potential risks to the water supply facing parts of Canada and the Middle East. Read more stories in the series.
Three years of unprecedented drought have left Cape Town's rain-fed reservoirs below 25 per cent capacity. All residents, whether they live in a suburb or a shantytown, have been told to limit their consumption to less than 50 litres per person per day or risk hastening the arrival of Day Zero, when levels become so low authorities opt to shut down the system and ration water to the South African city's four million residents.
We take a look at some of the ways Capetonians are trying to stay under that 50 litre limit.
Showers use an average of 10 litres of water per minute, so a five minute shower will use up all of the recommended daily amount for personal water use. Many Capetonians preach "stop-start" showers while standing in a basin to capture the runoff water or "grey water."
Local pop stars have remixed their hits into two-minute shower songs to help keep Capetonians on track.
Hair salons are offering discounts to customers arriving with already washed hair or those opting for a dry haircut instead. Gym-goers are scheduling their workouts to land on hair-wash days or investing in dry shampoo.
Many hotels, sports clubs, gyms and homes have had to close down their swimming pools as they can no longer use municipal water to fill them. The city's recreation and parks department has closed more than half of the municipal pools. Some hotels are using salt water instead.
Hand sanitizer is everywhere and in some restrooms, is your only option. While most places post signs asking you to choose hand sanitizer over handwashing, some business owners have gone as far as turning off the taps completely and making the choice for you.
Laundry uses around 70 litres per load so the city suggests trying to cut down to one load per week. To meet this, some residents are drying off with hand towels instead of bath towels, which cuts down on laundry bulk.
Water in Cape Town is reused and then reused again. Water collected from showers and laundry machines can fill toilet cisterns. If dishes are washed with a special probiotic soap, that dirty dishwater can then be used to water plants. Even floors can be washed with grey water.
Some restaurants are asking people to keep their cutlery between courses to save on washing, and one pop-up restaurant is even using paper plates. People are asked to use ice-cubes in their wine glasses instead of filling whole ice buckets to keep it cool.
What you can do with 50 litres of water:
Read more stories about Water at Risk:
- Divided to the last drop: Inside Cape Town's water crisis
- 'It's not impossible': Western Canada's risk of water shortages rising
- PHOTOS | Water worries mount around the world
- How Cape Town is weaning itself off water
- Vancouver's water to get scarcer, pricier as climate changes
- One of the driest places on Earth struggles to safeguard its most precious resource
- Nobody knows what's next for Cape Town's water supply
- What living on 50 L of water a day looks like
- Read all the stories in the series