When it comes to the drought, most of Cape Town have already passed the first stage of grief: denial. Many of us, however, are stuck at anger. Anger at the municipality for not planning in advance.Angry at the local residents still using water as if it’s a never-ending resource. And, finally, angry that tourist season is coming up.
Of course, it’s not the tourists’ fault. They’ve done nothing wrong by booking their tickets to Cape Town. Our economy relies on the influx of visitors from other cities, countries and continents. However, we all have to figure out a way to continue to try and save this valuable resource with many, many more people tapping into it.
Meet a tourist? Educate a tourist. Speak about our water crisis at every opportunity you can. Don’t simply mention it as a once-off statement. Talk about it as often as you can. You want to drive home the fact that we are facing a waterless future in the very near future. And then just drop in all the best ways to save water and be water-conscious. They may find it irritating, but what do you want more: water or a new tourist bestie?
Of course, individuals can only do so much. All public areas, especially those frequented by tourists, need to be covered in signage and waterwise notices. Flood Cape Town with reminders that we’re on the brink of complete disaster. In fact, there should be an announcement made by the pilot as tourists land in the Mother City. Something along the lines of, “We’re running out of water, please be cautious of your consumption or Cape Town won’t be as attractive as a destination next year.” Yes, something like that.
Unfortunately, we may see tourists acting like taking a bath is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. But that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse to take a five-minute shower instead of a two-minute shower or, even worse, not reuse that shower water for our toilets. We can blame the tourists all we want, but we still need to pick up the slack wherever we are.
And those out there who haven’t taken to full-on water-saving measures and still shower twice a day (even if it’s only two minutes at a time), they need to buckle up and grab those buckets and stick them in their showers. They need to only wash their dishes when there’s a full load and only do their laundry when every single item of their clothing has been worn. It’s no longer just about switching off the tap while you brush your teeth, you need to switch off the tap while you wash your hair.
If you’re a business that caters specifically to tourists, you need to both educate them and make plans to rectify the behavior of those who simply don’t care. Restaurants, for example, should put up waterwise signs in their bathrooms, offer water-free hand sanitiser as opposed to regular soap which needs to be washed off. And these are just simple measures smaller businesses can take.
The hotel industry, on the other hand, needs to make more drastic moves to ensure that tourist season doesn’t rob us of what little water we have left. Ensure that guests are aware of the impending lack of water Cape Town faces and be brave, tell them they can’t take a bath. Go the extra mile and cover the bath so they can’t use it even if they simply don’t care about what Capetonians will have to deal with in a few months.
They should also make an effort to look into businesses like PROXA water, which offer water solutions that could make a big difference to the water supply. They have a variety of products that focus on providing water in a responsible manner.
This is difficult because the businesses that do stay open over the festive season are businesses that are dependant on the income they receive during that time. And they need that money in order to pay their staff. We don’t want people to suffer financially because their business has closed to make up for water usage by tourists. But if the businesses that are able to shut down, the ones that close for the festive season anyway, could add a week or two to their holiday, that would be a big help. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on that. But every little bit helps.