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Organizational Change
South Africa Setting the Standard, Campaigning for #WaterWiseTourism

In response to a severe drought, citizens and businesses in Cape Town and the Western Cape have cut their water consumption by almost 60 percent over the past three years — a performance not yet matched by any other major city globally. Now the country’s tourism industry is sharing that for them, every drop counts, in a new campaign for #WaterWiseTourism.

South Africa’s warm, dry climate has allowed it to become a popular tourist destination, but it also makes water a particularly precious resource. Facing the realities of climate change, the country decided to change its relationship with water for the better. The change is especially noticeable in the tourism sector, where local businesses have demonstrated creativity and introduced innovative practices to make sustainable water management the norm.

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National Geographic recently highlighted some stand-out examples across the sector. Chef Luke Dale Roberts, for instance, has re-evaluated his approach to everything at his award-winning restaurants. Floors are mopped with water harvested from air-conditioning units, and dish washing has been dramatically reduced by using disposable cards fitted into picture frames instead of plates and asking diners if they mind using the same cutlery throughout the meal. At The Oyster Box hotel in Durban, ‘grey’ water is collected from showers, baths and basins to use for flushing toilets and rainwater is collected from roofs for storage underground and use in the gardens. Greenery is an even bigger concern for golf clubs, which are being encouraged to use indigenous grasses, landscape with local plants, and harvest and store water for irrigation. Events such as The Cape Town Open golf tournament have consciously moved to courses irrigated by effluent water.

Across the country, guests are encouraged to be water wise. Signage gives polite reminders and explains the importance of low-flow plumbing fixtures, why ordering a bottled drink without a glass could earn customers a discount on their bar bill, and more. Some safari lodges further encourage tourists to pay attention to “the little things” such as bringing quick-dry lightweight clothes that can be hand washed and to hold onto half-drunk bottles of water from game drives to pour onto potted plants.

South Africa is leading the way on water conservation and water wise tourism is keeping the country open for business even while rain is scarce. Cape Town alone has already set a new standard by cutting its water consumption from 1.2 billion liters to 515 million over three years. Now, they’re sharing this message with the world.