Avoid the Crisis | What is day zero
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[ Day Zero ]

Day Zero is the day when the dam levels reach 13.5% and as we can’t use this remaining dam water, the city’s taps are expected to run dry when we will have access to very little water.


The date of Day Zero is calculated based on knowing how much water is in the big 6 dams that feed Cape Town and the Western Cape Water Supply System, and knowing how much water is being used by the city’s residents, by agriculture and what is evaporating out of the dam. As of 13 March, the dams were 23% full and only if we all use 50 litres of water or less per person, per day, and we receive sufficient rainfall, can Day Zero be avoided in 2018.

On Day Zero, the city will move into full-scale Emergency Stage 3. This means that water to households and businesses will be cut off. There will not be enough water in the system to maintain normal services and the taps (and toilets) will run dry. Only vital services will still receive water. These are hospitals and clinics, stand-pipes in informal settlements and the 200 points of distribution (PoDs) where people can collect their allocated 25 litres per person. All other mains water supplied by the city will be cut off. Most schools will have to close if they don’t have their own safe supply from boreholes or rainwater tanks. Many businesses will not be able operate unless they can provide temporary (off-mains) toilets and drinking water.


Once the taps are switched off, we don’t know how long it will be until they are switched back on again for different neighbourhoods. The amount in the dams will take months to recover. It is likely that if we have the same amount of winter rainfall as last year we will not see an increase in the dams until August. It could be that re-establishment of basic water services will only happen deep into the winter months. We should be prepared to live with very little water for at least three months and possibly up to six months after Day Zero, but it all depends on when rain falls in the water source areas that feed the dams.


The City’s dashboard shows that most new sources (groundwater, desalination and reclaimed water from waste water treatment plants)  are expected to be ready by April/May with larger volumes coming online from groundwater and desalination in July/ August. So there will be some reprieve, but not close to Cape Town’s usual requirements. Adjusting to life with much less water will be the new normal.


In the event of Day Zero happening, it’s likely that many businesses will not be able to stay open – either because they rely on large volumes of water for their core functions or because they are not able to offer safe water and sanitation to employees for their time at work. Start talking to your boss and your colleagues now: How are your premises prepared for Day Zero, and how can you work remotely, via the cloud, if not? How many people will need to stay at home because their children’s schools are closed?


We should all have some emergency reserves of drinking water safely stored at home BUT you are not allowed to stockpile large volumes of water from municipal supplies. DO NOT fill up your rainwater tanks using municipal drinking water. You could buy 5-litre bottled water during your weekly shop and keep that safe as you prepare for Day Zero. Make sure the bottles are clean and keep them in a cool, dark place.





  • Check out your status on the Cape Town water users map: https://citymaps.capetown.gov.za/EGISViewer/
  • Make sure you have a minimum EMERGENCY SUPPLY of drinking water at home and start using clean used bottles to store water.
  • TALK to your neighbours, community groups, body corporate, colleagues, boss, school principal and governing body about plans for Day Zero and how we are going to look after each other to get through this together.


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