What many have taken for granted all our lives has rapidly become our most treasured resource: water. I can hardly believe that just a couple of years ago, I was bathing and flushing with impunity, as someone privileged enough to have consistent running water in the Cape used to do. This drought has given me a fresh appreciation for what life is like for those who share one tap between dozens of families, having to carry what they can for personal use across long distances in heavy buckets. Since this water crisis emerged, locals have looked to the tourism sector to ask what we’re doing to ensure our many visitors don’t deplete what’s left in our dams – I’d like to share some of the measures and initiatives of which I am aware.
Responsibility in tourism
Even prior to water restrictions, many hotels had implemented water saving mechanisms, such as using spring water to irrigate properties or do laundry. Responsible tourism has been an industry focus for years now; Cape Town Tourism was one of the five stakeholders to initiate and sign the Responsible Tourism Charter in 2009, and the organisation actively encourages all members to commit to responsible tourism by implementing practical measures.
Central to all efforts in cutting back on water usage is ensuring that this is happening at all tourism-related businesses, in particular, hotels and the big attractions. This messaging has been regularly shared with all Cape Town tourism businesses throughout 2017. There is extensive messaging in hotels regarding the water shortages. This is in addition to practical measures the accommodation industry has taken such as removing bath plugs and encouraging guests to take two-minute showers, and reducing laundry routines. Besides the hotels, tourism businesses are acutely aware of the need for water conservation.
Checking in with water savings at hotels and places of accommodation
There’s been innovation in many of the ways in which tourism businesses are saving water: The Vineyard Hotel has spent R5-million on water-saving initiatives over the past 5 years, devoted 654 hours to clearing alien vegetation in 2016, fitted taps with aerators, implemented the use of paper towels instead of hand towels to reduce the laundry load and is recycling laundry water. They collect all unfinished bottled water for use in floor washing – a brilliant idea.
Tsogo Sun has removed bath plugs and installed water restrictors on all shower heads. All guests are issued with water-saving tips on check-in and signage reminding guests to save is visible in all public areas.
Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is providing the land for a new desalination plant‚ for free. The modular land-based plant, which will produce 2 million litres per day‚ will be operational by February.
The Cape Grace Hotel is paying attention to the finer details of water saving, right down to guests with little ones who need baths. They’ve fitted existing tubs with new BabyDams– an innovative baby bath that can save up to 28 litres of water with each use.
Popular with local and international visitors, Spier began focusing on water conservation 10 years ago. They built an eco-friendly wastewater treatment plant, which is a must-see attraction at the wine farm. The plant treats water from the hotels, restaurants, winery and food packaging facilities. The treated water is used for irrigation purposes throughout the 6-acre property.
We have partnered with Sanlam to bring out a selection of local musicians performing two-minute versions of their hits to help people time themselves in the shower – it’s a great way of spreading the message at a popular level, as well as introducing visitors to some of the sounds of South Africa. We feel that while many initiatives take place at a corporate, industrial level, there’s a need to push the message in an innovative way to locals.
Keeping the attractions attractive
Sustainability is not a choice, it’s an imperative; our big attractions in the city are all actively engaging with initiatives to ensure that future generations of visitors will enjoy what we can today. With millions of visitors passing through the V&A Waterfront, or taking a thrilling ride up the Table Mountain Cableway, efforts have been made to ensure that the environmental impact is minimized, including that water isn’t wasted at all.
The V&A Waterfront identified air conditioning as by far the biggest consumer of water, and they've reduced consumption by using sea water to do their air conditioning now.
Cape Point, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, Groot Constantia and the Robben Island Museum have all found ways of saving water, and have been doing so for years.
It’s not a campaign we’re all undertaking, it’s a lifestyle that will be ongoing, a mindset shift that has to happen - one we trust will allow our destination to continue to delight visitors.
* Enver Duminy is CEO of Cape Town Tourism
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.