PESTLE and the City of Cape Town water crisis


  • Responsibility for the water supply is shared by the local, provincial and national government
  • The City of Cape Town criticised for the slow pace of procurement, high level of bureaucracy, lack of urgency, and the inadequate scale of the proposed water supply projects
  • DA (Democratic Alliance) criticised for a lack of forward-thinking on the development of new water sources and infrastructures
  • ANC (African National Congress) accused of withholding funding to sabotage and embarrass the DA-led local administration
  • Removal of Cape Town mayor from leading the drought response task team, replaced with the leader of the Democratic Alliance
  • Debt and corruption in the Department of Water and Sanitation may account for its failure to accept Western Cape’s request to increase water supplies and infrastructure in 2015
  • Premier of the Western Cape called for the national government to refund the City of Cape Town for the costs of managing the water crisis


  • The average water demand dropped by 45% (February 2017 to February 2018), resulting in a shortfall of revenue for The City of Cape Town (R2 billion).
  • The City of Cape Town raised water tariffs to increase revenue, especially from residents who continue to use large amounts of water, often for luxurious, non-essential uses
  • Agricultural water stress produced smaller yields and an estimated economic loss of R5.9 billion and a 13-20% drop in exports
  • Water crisis resulted in the loss of 37,000 jobs in the Western Cape
  • Estimated 50,000 people pushed below the poverty line due to job losses, inflation, and increases in the price of food
  • Estimated that the water crisis will cost 300,000 jobs in agriculture, and tens of thousands more in the service, hospitality and food sectors
  • Level 7 water restrictions would see the taps being shut off and the need to queue at designated collection points for daily rations, which would further affect Cape Town’s economy as people would have to take time off from work to wait in line for water


  • Conscious consumption, for example by showering rather than bathing, by showering for less time, switching off taps whilst washing hands, brushing teeth or shaving, flushing toilets only when necessary and washing the car in the rain
  • Recycling water, for example by collecting shower water in a bucket and reusing the greywater for toilet flushing, watering of gardens
  • Collecting drinking water from mountain streams and natural springs
  • Public kudos for compliant households, through published lists
  • Media naming and shaming top water abusers
  • City officials drive through neighbourhoods that are using too much water with a bullhorn calling them out
  • Drought learned behaviours established and many continue as post-drought conscious habits


  • Improved infrastructure, such as checking for and fixing all leaking pipes.
  • Water rationing occurs through extreme pressure reduction
  • Installation of water storage tanks to collect rainwater
  • Drilling of private boreholes to source water, though borehole water use is discouraged as it takes away vital resources for groundwater reclamation projects
  • Installation of greywater and swimming pool backwash recovery systems
  • Hand sanitizer provided in offices and public buildings instead of conventional hand-washing
  • Municipality purchasing of additional water from reservoir, commissioning small temporary desalination plants and water recycling project
  • Hackathons held to find creative solutions
  • Research into, and the adoption of, more water-efficient methods of farming
  • Examining traits from wild plants that can grow with limited water, with hopes of replicating such traits in food crops through conventional breeding and biotechnology


  • Various levels of water restrictions are imposed on both agricultural and urban use of municipal water
  • Limitations on what is considered acceptable usage of water – essentially drinking, cooking and washing are permitted, anything else is banned.
  • Limits on what is considered acceptable consumption (varying from 100 litres to 50 litres per person, per day at home, work or school, etc.)
  • Residential units using more than 10 500 litres per month will be
  • Water-management devices installed that strictly limit daily consumption for homeowners exceeding consumption, with the offender having to foot the installation bill
  • Public water collection leads to long queues and fights between people break out, resulting in City of Cape Town stepping up security


  • A 1°C increase in temperature over the past century
  • Between 1995-2015 City of Cape Town population increased by 71%
  • Dam water storage capacity increased by 17%, during the same period
  • Water-thirsty alien plants in crucial catchment areas have reduced water supply by an estimated 30 million metric cube per annum
  • In 2007 it was predicted that demand will exceed supply if water conservation and management measures not implemented
  • Mother Nature brings a drought from 2015 to 2018 – three consecutive dry winters ahead and water levels start declining
  • Drought the City’s worst in a century, with 2017 annual rainfall lowest since records commenced in 1933.
  • Declining quality of water and concerns about inadequate sanitation, diseases, and health services
  • “Day Zero” looming, the date when the dam level is forecast to be 13.5% – the unusable level
  • The average temperature in Cape Town is expected to increase by 0.25°C in the next ten years, increasing the likelihood and severity of drought