Journal article

How different Cape Town residential suburbs helped avert Day Zero

Research Areas

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Publication Details

Author list: Ouweneel B, Winter K, Carden K

Publisher: IWA Publishing

Publication year: 2020

Journal: H2Open Journal

Volume number: 3

Issue number: 1

Start page: 118

End page: 134

Total number of pages: 17

ISSN: 2616-6518



Between 2015 and 2018, the Western Cape region of South Africa experienced three consecutive years of below average rainfall. The local authority of Cape Town imposed water restrictions to avert ‘Day Zero’, an event that was expected to occur if the storage capacity of the main dams supplying the city fell to below 13.5%. This study analyses how different residential areas in Cape Town responded to water restrictions and tariffs that were imposed from January 2016 to October 2018 during the midst of the water crisis. It further explores the potential implications for tariff adjustments that were designed to sustain water conservation measures beyond the drought, while also being sensitive to the ability of poorer households to access sufficient water at an appropriate per capita cost. Different socio-economic groups displayed a different response to the restrictions. A delay or lag-time was observed in lower-income suburbs during the initial phases of water restrictions, while middle- and higher-income suburbs responded immediately. Once the water crisis eased by mid-2018 and restrictions were reduced, more affluent suburbs began relaxing their water conservation efforts. Nevertheless, lower-, middle-, and higher-income suburbs significantly reduced their water demand by 32, 59, and 58%, respectively, over the study period. It can therefore be concluded that water restrictions and accompanying tariffs altered water use of all users regardless of socio-economic status.


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Last updated on 2020-20-11 at 13:02