Cape Town Water Crisis

The Cape Town water crisis in South Africa was a period of severe water shortage in the Western Cape region, most notably affecting the City of Cape Town. While dam water levels had been decreasing since 2015, the Cape Town water crisis peaked during mid-2017 to mid-2018 when water levels hovered between 14 and 29 percent of total dam capacity.

In late 2017, there were first mentions of plans for "Day Zero", a shorthand reference for the day when the water level of the major dams supplying the City could fall below 13.5 percent.[1][2][3] "Day Zero" would mark the start of Level 7 water restrictions, when municipal water supplies would be largely switched off and it was envisioned that residents could have to queue for their daily ration of water. If this had occurred, it would have made the City of Cape Town the first major city in the world to run out of water.[4][5] The water crisis occurred at the same time as the Eastern Cape drought, located in a separate region nearby.

The City of Cape Town implemented significant water restrictions in a bid to curb water usage, and succeeded in reducing its daily water usage by more than half to around 500 million litres (130,000,000 US gal) per day in March 2018.[6] The fall in water usage led the City to postpone its estimate for "Day Zero", and strong rains starting in June 2018 led to dam levels recovering.[7] In September 2018, with dam levels close to 70 percent, the city began easing water restrictions, indicating that the worst of the water crisis was over.[8] Good rains in 2020 effectively broke the drought and resulting water shortage when dam levels reached 95 percent.[9]


Arctic Blue Waters Alaska, Inc. has a number of bulk water sources which could service South Africa with bulk water. Subject to port restrictions in SA and available vessels we would normally like to supply in quantities in excess of 50,000 tons, the ideal quantity being 200,000 tons.

We are currently working on a freight on board price of USD 6.00 per metric ton for portable water. This would include port costs at the source including security but not tugs should they be needed.

There is no restriction in supply from our water sources so the regularity of delivery will depend on vessel availability at the time.  The biggest constraint to importing BULK water in any volume is the ability to unload the water in 24 – 36 hours. The cost of shipping the water is the major cost in this project and subject to distance travelled can vary from US $16.00 per ton to US $25.00 per ton.

Posted on 20th January 2024 by Fred Paley.