Tourists in Cape Town have been told not to use baths and to shower for less than two minutes as the city’s drought worsens.
As it edges closer to Day Zero – 16 April, when taps will be turned off due to lack of water – officials are starting to worry about the effect on the important tourism industry.
Around 10 million tourists visited Cape Town last year and tourism accounted for an estimated 9% of South Africa’s economic output.
There are fears that, as water restrictions get tougher, many tourists will stay away, causing trouble for the economy in a country already suffering from 25% unemployment.
Enver Duminy, chief executive officer at Cape Town Tourism, said: “There’s no doubt that the knock-on effect of the water conservation crossroads we find ourselves in has had an impact on tourism.”
There are no official numbers yet but Mr Duminy said there had already been cancellations.
Meanwhile, Cape Town residents are also living under tight restrictions which limit them to 50 litres of water per day. An average bath holds around 80 litres.
Using city drinking water to wash vehicles, hose paved areas, water gardens and fill pools is illegal and there are fines for those who break the rules.
For many, the situation highlights the divide between the city’s rich – many of whom are buying artificial grass, water tanks and bottled water – and its poor.
While Cape Town has many ocean-side mansions accustomed to plentiful water supply, a quarter of its population lives in settlements where water comes from communal taps.
According to Kirsty Carden, from the Future Water Institute at the University of Cape Town, these poorer people – about one million out of a population of four million – use just 4.5% of the water.
She said: “It has been in the areas where people have gardens, they have swimming pools and they are much more profligate in the way that they use water, because they’re used to the water just being, coming out of the taps.”
In one settlement, Vuyo Kazi told Associated Press that she had previously used two kettles of water to wash herself but now she used one.
In the seaside town of Scarborough, resident Kelson da Cruz said: “I think South Africa is, for the first time, really catching up with the rest of the world. They have to change their habits. You can’t just take for granted something so precious.”
The dams supplying Cape Town are at just 25.8% of capacity.
The drought has been blamed on rapid population growth and climate change.