If You Think the Water Restrictions in California Are Tough, Check Out Cape Town

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By the author of Be Ready for Anything and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted

Remember earlier in the year when the news was abuzz about Day Zero in Cape Town, South Africa?  According to the press at the time, the day was looming when the city of 3.74 million people would run completely out of water. First, the date of Day Zero was heralded as April 16th, then May 11th, then June 4th.

Calculating Day Zero took into account maximum evaporation (based on temperature and wind) and existing patterns in agricultural and urban use—an equation that considered both natural and man-made conditions. (source)

Now, they’re saying the disaster has been averted for now, but that it could happen in 2019. And if you think the water restrictions in California are tough, wait until you see what they’re doing in Cape Town.

So how did Cape Town avoid Day Zero?

Day Zero was delayed by a combination of things. Fortunately, there was some rainfall, and citizens went to great effort to reduce their water usage.  There was a public campaign to basically scare Capetonians into compliance with conservation efforts.

Late last year, as the South African government faced the prospect of its largest city running out of water, they took an unprecedented gamble.

The government announced “day zero” – a moment when dam levels would be so low that they would turn off the taps in Cape Town and send people to communal water collection points.

This apocalyptic notion prompted water stockpiling and panic, caused a drop in tourism bookings, and raised the spectre of civil unrest.

It also worked. After years of trying to convince residents to conserve, the aggressive campaign jolted people into action. Water use was (and still is) restricted to 50 litres per person per day. (In 2016, average daily per capita use in California was 321 litres.) Households that exceed the limit face hefty fines, or having a meter installed in their home that shuts off their water once they go over. (source)

Oh, and then there was the public shaming.

…The city publicly shamed water offenders, with the now former mayor visiting the homes of water wasters and her office publishing a list of the top 100 offenders. (source)

There’s even a website where you can check the levels of the water supply.

The water restrictions there make the water restrictions announced last week in California look like a hedonistic luxury vacation to the folks living in Cape Town.

How people in Cape Town are cutting their water usage

I got a friendly email from a Jaco, a reader who lives in Cape Town and he told me, basically, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Instead of a luxurious 55 gallons per day per person, Capetonians are limited to 13.5 gallons per day per person.

Welcome to the new norm.  🙂

Here in Cape Town, we came VERY close to running dry. We are still not out of the woods by any means, the city can still run out of water in 2019 onwards unless we stop relying on just the rain.

So we are forced to use 50l pppd = 13.2086 gallons per person per day.

You can use more water, but then these things happen:

1) You get billed some serious money for the extra water.

2) If you continue, your flow can be limited with a device to just 50l pppd.

3) And if you keep on ignoring the above, they can take legal action.

We are 6 people using 5000l of water consistently (1320.86 gallons) per month for EVERYTHING.

There are some seriously clever things we were forced to do.

I now realise the amount of water we, as a city, wasted before.

So, obviously, I was dying to know the clever things they were forced to do. There are some fantastic lessons for preppers in all this because if you one day live in a world in which all the water you have has to be procured and carried to your home, you’ll want to conserve or you’ll be hauling water non-stop at our current rates of usage.

Jaco from Cape Town continued with some comparisons to the restrictions recently launched in California:

To give you an idea:

– An 8-minute shower uses about 17 gallons of water

o We are on 90 second showers if you have to shower per day. People are not showering per day anymore.  🙂

o Catch all the shower water, use if for the toilet.

– A load of laundry uses about 40 gallons of water

o We use rainwater – about 50l (13gal) per wash.

o Changed the soap, so we don’t have to use the rinse cycle – that is another 50l.

o ALL the water is pumped into a drum, used for toilets. Use pool HTH to keep the smell at bay.

o Some people have changed their washing machines, to use <40l per wash with rinsing.

– A bathtub holds 80 to 100 gallons of water

o Those days are gone, no really, forget a bath.

o If you have to bath, better have a sponge bath.

o Catch the water for the toilets.

– A dishwasher uses 6 gallons of water

o Nope, 2.5-5l per wash. Better swap the dishwasher for a German model that saves water.

o Or, use rainwater.

And a lot of things are now completely illegal. For example:

Illegal to water the gardens. Have had to let plants die, rather get local fauna and flora that can grow In the area.

Illegal to wash your car.

Illegal to top up your pool. Pool must have a cover. Use rainwater or order grey water from the council.

The cost of water has gone up dramatically:

Because the municipality is now earning substantially less due to less water purchased, the rates per kilolitre went up substantially.

We used to pay +-R90.00 for 25 000 litres of water.

We now pay R125.00 ($9.83) for 5000l of water. 25 000 litres (6604 gallons) or of water could cost about +-R25 000 ($1965.73) today – if you dare. 🙂

The key is the reuse of gray water, something that very few places in the United States are doing.

We found that ALL the grey water we generate, not kitchen grey water, can be used for the toilets.

That is the biggest saving. Not one drop of clean water goes down toilets, as all the taps feeding the toilets are closed off.

The trick is, ALL greywater must be used for toilets.

Without toilets flushing, sickness will enter the equation.

Do not flush clean water down a toilet, ever.

Invest in portable pools or water tanks, and use that water for like washing clothes, then to toilets.

Jaco’s excellent suggestions and information could be very valuable for those facing shortages now or in the future.

Unsurprisingly there was government mismanagement involved.

When I asked about the postponement of Day Zero, the answer was something we can all relate to. Some corrupt person or persons had mismanaged the utility and all but bankrupted it. And with all the hubbub about Day Zero, tourists were staying away from Cape Town, making a bad problem even worse. Jaco wrote:

My take?

#DAyZero went away because it costed the local economy too much due to less tourist.

AND, it turns out, the National Department of Water and Sanitation, was mismanaged to the tune of millions of Rands, effectively bankrupt, which was THE biggest problem, bar all missing the warning signs the last few years…

So instead of losing more income and making the ANC look even worse, the politicians “agreed” to suspend DayZero – for now.

The problem however, is still very real.

Dam levels are slowly rising, but if the dams are not full by end of the year, DAYZero is looming in 2019.

Some schemes are online, but in the end, they will not be enough. Need bigger desalination plants.

And, we have not reached the set 450mil of water per day for the city as a whole.

So for now, the new norm is fixed on 13.2086 gallons per person per day.

So the 50 gallons, yes, you are barking up the wrong tree – it is going to get much worse.

People HAVE to change, not only preppers.

A global water crisis isn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination.  Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse Blog has been warning about it for years.

For generations, we have been able to take our seemingly endless supplies of fresh water completely for granted, but things have now changed.

We are heading into a horrendous water crisis unlike anything that the world has ever experienced before, and right now there do not seem to be any large scale solutions capable of addressing this crisis.

Hundreds of millions of people living in North Africa, the Middle East, India and parts of China already deal with severe water shortages as part of their daily lives.

But this is just the beginning.

If nothing is done, the lack of fresh water will eventually be deeply felt by nearly everyone on the entire planet. (source)

The use of water has quadrupled over the past century and with our growing population, shows no sign of slowing down.

How do you prepare for a global water shortage?

This will affect us not only with forced restrictions like we’re seeing in California but with escalating water bills. Obviously, that will be much more of a deterrent to the poor, since the wealthy won’t have a problem paying the high prices. Some projections on a government webpage that is no longer available suggested that we could see our water bills as much as triple over the next 25 years.

Meanwhile, one must ask whether companies like Nestle will be able to drain our lakes for pennies and sell the water back to us for dollars.

So what can you do to be better prepared for a situation like this? Not only must you worry about hygiene and personal consumption, but if you have gardens, orchards, and livestock, you’ll need more water for producing food.

A few things to look into:

  • Rainwater Catchment – Depending on your local regulations, you may want to do it anyway and hide it discreetly skip this if it’s against the law
  • Designing a greywater system – As opposed to sending all that water from laundry and showers uselessly down the drain, look into a system that sends all used water to the toilet. Again, this is not legal in some states so do it on the down-low check your regulations
  • Look into desalination – If you live near the coast, you might want to consider setting up a personal desalination system. It would be well worth the investment and is simply mindblowing that the government isn’t using some of those tax dollars they’re collecting to do this on a large scale. If you consider the fact that many people who sail keep these on board to purify ocean water, you’ll see that the technology exists. They’re not cheap but an incredibly worthwhile investment for those near the ocean.
  • Use well water – Again, we run into the issue of this not being legal in some places, but if you are able to get a well drilled on your property “for agricultural use” it would be a good idea to do it before regulations become even more strict.

What do you think?

Do you feel that we’re on the edge of a much bigger water crisis than just the one in California? If not, why not? If so, what are your ideas for prepping for it?


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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Another tip from just outside CT.
    If you want a nice ‘soak’ or long shower, book into a ‘budget hotel’ for a night.
    Take your laundry and use the bath to wash your ‘work’ clothes.

  • “”forced restrictions like we’re seeing in California””

    i don’t know where yall is, daisy honey, but here in L.A. i can use all the water that i want to. that being said, i do my best not to waste it.

  • We are all going to run out of water in this country too. It will probably start with the larger cities and work it’s way down to the rural areas. I live in an arid area, of New Mexico. We are in the mountains and we are about 10,000 in population. At this point we have a reasonably god water table. However we are in a drought right now. We often talk about the plentiful water back east, but most of us would not give up living in these beautiful mountains.

    The dryer State, Arizona takes water from us to service their cities where the population has used up ther aquifers. Strangely enough all of the major cite pies are growing. This is a losing proposition!, why anyone woul move to a place with no water is beyond me. But it’s happening. So unless we as a country start to conserve we could and most likely run out of water, if the present weather conditions continue. Conservation of the 2nd most precious resource n the planet should be done by every person and industry.

    • I hope something as been done to stop “water grabbing” by foreign countries in Arizona.

      Saudi Arabia Farming Arizona Land After Depleting Domestic Water Sources – 11/3/15
      “Outside of Phoenix, in the scorching Arizona desert, sits a farm that Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy uses to make hay for cows back home.
      That dairy company, named Almarai, bought the farm (in 2014) and has planted thousands of acres of groundwater-guzzling alfalfa to make that hay. (Alfalfa requires 3-4 times more water than wheat.) Saudi Arabia can’t grow its own hay anymore because those crops drained its own ancient aquifer.”

      “They got about 15 water wells when they purchased the property. Now, each one of those wells can pump about 1.5 billion gallons of water. It’s an incredible amount of water they’re going to be drawing up from that aquifer underground,”

      “the laws that are in place are really inadequate for dealing with this new trend. This is occurring in a part of Arizona that is unregulated for groundwater. So there are no limits on how much water they can pump.”

      The United Arab Emirates doing something similar nearby…
      “They are growing hay. They are using the groundwater. And they are shipping it overseas — in this case, we were told, to China.

      Water Grabbing: How Saudi Arabia is Growing Wheat in Arizona – 11/8/15

  • I was wondering what happened in cape town..I grew up with prepping parents not so much a all in but we had a huge garden small farm all the kids hunted and fished we knew the woods. It was just how it was. My mother always said today’s wars are about oil tomorrows will be for clean water she is 85 and seems to be right she was not surprised about cape town and said I told you so.

  • Hi Daisy, one point to note from experience, don’t use laundry water for the vegetables or fruit trees, otherwise you will get fruit that tastes of detergent. It’s fine for the flowers though.

  • Biggest mindset change needed is water flushed toilets! Humanure handbook is THE book that shows how simple it is to use a dry toilet which is essentially a bucket with a lid and sawdust. Bonus in addition to all that water saved and compost for the garden too. The water flush toilet was the biggest mistake in human history as far as water usage. The first thing to do in a water crisis is get yourself a bucket toilet. Second, start washing dishes by hand again and clothes by hand too. You can have a wash yourself in a 10 litre bucket of water. Done by millions in India and I have done it myself while in India. What appears radical now won’t be soon…

    • I washed and felt very clean using a helmet for years. It works well. Just remember top to bottom. Heh heh heh!

  • My husband and I use solely rain water catchment for all of our water. We typically average 50 gallons a week for me, him, 4 cats, a GSD and chickens. I’m in TN where we get plenty of rain water. I only have current capacity to store 800 gallons, so we are just thoughtful about our use.

  • Guys, seriously……look into Earthships and their water uses. They can be built in any climate with modifications.

  • I remember when I was a kid, our washing machine emptied into a double concrete wash tub. Two separate hoses. One, we plugged the sink, and the washer reused that water for the next load (I imagine for the wash cycle). Eventually it went down the drain, but it got reused.

    Another interesting point to look into is how the Chinese are buying up land close to and all around the Great Lakes area. That’s a scary thought. If we lose control of that water source, we are all in trouble.

    I refuse to buy any Nestle products because of their irresponsible use of water. Be aware, I know I wasn’t, that Ice Mountain Spring water is a Nestle product. I also avoid almonds and almond products. The almond industry uses an enormous amount of water. Almond milk uses a gazillion nuts for a measly amount of milk. We can be more responsible consumers of water by using our pocketbooks as well as personal conservation and mindful use.

  • I have railed against flush toilets for decades. It seems that our scientific community could come up with a way to have composting waste systems that are large scale for cities.

    The other big problem is agricultural waste. The large wheeled spray irrigating systems have up to 40% evaporation rates. This could be eliminated by using no till farming methods and seepage irrigating.

    A large part of California’s water problems come from wineries, almond growing, and avocado trees, all of which consume huge volumes of water. I recently drove through southern California and saw miles and miles of dead almond trees standing in the groves. There is a big water battle there.

  • This is bringing back memories as I live in Cape Town. Dam levels going into summer are currently about 73% with some rain and thundershowers expected over the next few days.

  • How to clean ANY quality of water (whether salty, toilet contaminated, radiation, chemical/pharmaceutical, fertilizer, etc, etc) to distilled perfection by using free sunlight: there are entire families using this DIY method along the US/Mexico border where local politics prevents cleaning the local salty water.

    DIY: How to Build a Solar Water Distiller: Do It Yourself – Make a Solar Still to Purify H20 Without Electricity or Water Pressure, by Sharon Buydens | Sep 4, 2015,
    4.0 out of 5 stars 32, Paperback, $19.00


    A lesson from history: In the late 1800s after the Great American plains were emptied (by killing off the huge buffalo herds that had fed the Indians), there were enormous piles of animal dung left behind. Settlers who moved in to build farms, towns and cities collected some of that dung partly to burn in their fireplaces to keep from winter time freezing. Some of them used that dung as fertilizer in their gardens. Dung has its uses.


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