Cape Town’s water crisis sheds light on importance of water preservation

Photo Courtesy of || Cape Town’s water crisis is disproportionately affecting poor populations. 

Photo Courtesy of || Cape Town’s water crisis is disproportionately affecting poor populations. 

Briana Brady ’21
Contributing Writer



    Cape Town is set to run out of water in June.

    According to USA Today, Cape Town has imposed a limit of 13.2 gallons of water per day. Members of the Cape Town community have severely cut back on showering, washing and flushing toilets to try to prolong the water source, but with 3.7 million people living in the metropolitan area, every drop counts.

    The Atlantic reported that while some of this issue stems from a severe lack of rain in the area, it can also be attributed to the severe inequality in Cape Town.

Wealthy and predominantly white persons live in suburban, coastal areas, whereas poor, mostly black citizens have been forced into the flatlands.

    Parts of Cape Town, the infrastructure and many tourist hubs are spectacularly developed, but in that process, many of the town’s poorest citizens have been left behind.

The wealthy used more than their fair share of water over the years while the poor have always faced water restrictions and the lack of government action when warning signs of this impending crisis emerged over 25 years ago has not helped the situation.

    To put this into perspective, Smith College reported last March that in the “performance year” recorded, Smith used a total of 51,630,662 gallons of water and received a “Gold” rating from Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, a program of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.

Smith reported that per weighted campus user, each person used 13,055.51 gallons of potable water over the performance year and an average of 35.767 gallons of potable water a day, nearly three times what someone in Cape Town can use on a daily basis.

Smith took steps to reduce water usage in past years in ways that include installing two cisterns in Ford Hall to capture and recycling rainwater. Collectively, the two cisterns as well as the overflow tank can capture 60,000 gallons of rainwater.

Despite the measures taken to reduce water on campus and otherwise, not many take into account the amount of water wasted on a daily basis.

Simple things such as reducing shower time, turning off the water while brushing teeth and finishing water bottles can have a cumulatively positive impact on the environment and water-accessibility throughout the world.

The situation in Cape Town has now made it more evident than ever that negligence of climate change and personal consumption can result in crisis, so all measures to conserve and preserve should be taken sooner rather than later.