A Crisis for Who? Social Reproduction and the Social Relations of the Cape Town Water Crisis
After years of drought, water levels in reservoirs and dams supplying Cape Town reached critically low levels in late 2017 and the City warned it could run out of water, or reach “Day Zero”, in early 2018. More recently, the South African National Disaster Management Centre declared the crisis a ‘national state of disaster’. Initially set for mid-March of this year, dramatic reductions in water usage and measures to increase supply have pushed “Day Zero” predictions back such that, given adequate winter rainfall, the City now predicts it will avoid running out of water in 2018.
The dramatic reductions in water consumption, down to 500 million litres per day (MLD) in February 2018 from 900 MLD during February 2017, were achieved primarily through household conservation, pressure reduction, installation of water management devices (WMDs) and punitive tariffs. All households were instructed to reduce consumption to below 6000 litres per month or 50 litres per person per day based on a 4-person household. If usage exceeds 10 500 litres per month (87.5 litres per person per day) households face installation of a WMD to manage and cut-off the water flow. Moreover, escalating tariffs were introduced in January 2017 which ramp up after 6000 litres per month (indigent households still receive this for free provided they stay below the 10 500 litre limit) to which yet another dramatic increase of 26.9% (with the same increase for sanitation) was announced in March 2018.