Since the beginning of February 2018, the city of Cape Town has dramatically reduced its water consumption to the extent that forecasts now suggest that there will be NO municipal water supply shortages in Cape Town this year.  However, water restrictions will be a fact of life in Cape Town for the remainder of this year to allow for water augmentation projects and rainfall to replenish the city’s water supply. What does this mean for your upcoming internship program experience with VACorps?

As a future program participant, if you’re worried about the lifestyle adjustments required to live in a city with water restrictions, don’t fret! As water saving techniques soon become habitual, the adjustments you make will become an important life lesson rather than a burden. None of our current participants have said that water use restrictions are interfering with their enjoyment here. If anything, it’s better to be living in a way that helps you become conscious of the world around you and will stress the importance of our impact as humans on this precious planet. Living in Cape Town during this crisis will be a lesson in disguise, and who doesn’t want that!

To help prepare you for your upcoming adventure to South Africa, we’ve asked current VACorps interns to answer questions about what it’s like to live in Cape Town with water restrictions in place. Read up, learn, enjoy, and get excited about your upcoming adventure to this beautiful city!

How has living in a water-scarce environment changed your approach to the use of water?

  • I’ve become much more conscientious of my own water consumption. It’s easy to live under the pretense that water is an endless resource, but in reality, that’s not the case. I’m much more aware of how much I use now.” –Anna Jacobsen
  • “We as humans are dependent on water, there’s no avoiding that truth. What many of us are unaware of, however, is how much water we do waste on a day-to-day basis. This notion is quite alive in first world countries and places in which water scarcity has never been the slightest worry. I know in my past – back home in America – that while I’ve not consciously wasted water, I’ve taken it for granted; that is the foundational flaw at this moment, as citizens, in the face of crisis, still cannot seem to grasp and understand their own role. Personally, I have been heavily involved in the False Bay water crisis task team, and perhaps the most critical takeaway is that this crisis is influenced by EVERYONE. Change starts at the personal level, and committing to simple, yet effective water-saving tactics is a change that should have begun in Cape Town long ago, but should also truly be adopted worldwide.” –Alex Apgar

What water saving techniques can you recommend to future interns who will be arriving in the program while water restrictions are still in place?

  • “I’ve found it really helpful to time my showers on my watch. That way I actually know how long I have the tap on. When I started timing my showers (a week after I got here), I realized that I was spending much longer in the shower than I thought.” –Anna Jacobsen
  • “Water saving techniques are not rocket science, nor are they tolling to any extent: turn the shower off while soaping up, run the water for brief intervals in effort to minimize shower-time to under a minute (ideally), toilet-wise, if it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down, brush your teeth using a cup of water rather than multiple faucet runs, adopt a grey water flush system if possible, only do laundry when you have a full load, etc. There are many infographics and flyers that will be posted both in your place of residence and nearly everywhere else.” –Alex Apgar

What part of your daily routine uses the most water and what efforts have you taken to reduce usage in this area?

  • “Dishes. It is very difficult to save water when cleaning up after a large meal. The best technique I have found is filling a used pot or pan (maybe half full) with warm soapy water to initially rinse all of the dishes. It uses much less water than filling the whole sink. I make sure the water is turned off when I scrub each dish or utensil. After they are all scrubbed, I run the tap (slowly) and rinse each individually until the soap is gone.” – Kiley Kowal
  • “In recent memory, I have pretty much always started my day off with a shower to wake up and stay fresh. Back home, I would take anywhere between a 3 and 5 minute shower, but when I arrived in Cape Town, I immediately began limiting my shower time to the required time. As of the beginning of February, as restrictions have tightened, in lieu of the morning shower, I have instead headed to the water of Muizenberg beach before work. The salty ocean water has its healing properties, is just as refreshing as any shower, and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Across the board, however, I have adjusted my actions to push back day zero.” –Alex Apgar

How can future interns avoid the mistakes you initially made while adjusting to Cape Town’s water use restrictions?

  • “Read and keep up to date on the news about the water restrictions. VAC has a lot of great water saving tips – use them!” –Rebecca Yap
  • “Not flushing wasn’t actually that bad – think about all that water you have saved.” –Jessica Tam
  • “TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS. I really didn’t have a problem adjusting to a 2-minute shower, but so many interns do, and many continue to take showers that are far too long. Showers use SO much water and cutting the duration down even by a minute saves a ton!” –Kiley Kowal
  • “Prepare before you leave home. Understand the water restrictions in place and practice!” –Anna Jacobsen
  •  “Remind yourself every day and remind others and it will eventually just become a habit.” –Sean Maloney

When you leave Cape Town, what knowledge will you bring home with you and what lessons will really stand out in your mind for years to come?

  • “Water is not a limitless resource! Don’t waste it.” – Anna Jacobsen
  • “When one spends an extended period of time in a foreign place, they often adapt to more than just the lifestyle in that they take both tangible and intangible experiences, entities, ideas, relationships, you name it. Like I said, water saving needs to be universally adopted. Cape Town is not the only city facing such adversity (Brazil, Somalia, and California to name a few) and action is required.” –Alex Apgar
  • “Clean water is something we take for granted in North America. I have gained a greater appreciation for it and I am more conscious every time I use water. A future without clean running water is scary and has many negative downstream impacts, especially on healthcare and those in low SES areas. I hope that the government will find a sustainable solution to defeat day zero – saving water is truly a collaborative effort and everyone has a role to play.” –Rebecca Yap
  • “I have learned how precious water is and shouldn’t be taken for granted as not everyone has access to it. I also now know how much water each activity requires and will be calculating the amount of water I use each day.” –Jessica Tam

Special thanks to all the VACorps interns who participated in this interview!