Water Crisis in Cape Town and the Promise of Stand Up Paddling

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Jacquiin Crane Starboard inflatable Cape Town Africa
Jacquiin Crane Starboard inflatable Cape Town Africa
Global Partner

One of the perspectives that stand up paddling gives us is the preciousness of water.  Clean water, drinkable water, water that’s good to paddle in, on or around.  We become great appreciators of the wealth of resource beneath our feet. 

But what happens when that wealth begins to dry out? 

Here is Starboard Sup Yogi Jacqui Smith’s perspective on the water crisis currently effecting Cape Town, So. Africa.  Read on and be inspired to protect the Earth’s most valuable resource:  Water.

Jacquiin crane Starboard sup
After having spent nearly two years in New Zealand’s rain forests, Jacqui Smith comes home to Cape Town to find the community’s water supply has almost run out. Photo by: Michelle Pratt

Appreciation of Water:  From rain forest to water crisis

“Paddling allows me to experience my home from a different perspective and brings me comfort in this time as Day Zero draws near. Day Zero is when the taps officially run dry.”
– Jacqui Smith

What a strange feeling to be driving home from the airport after living in one of New Zealand’s rain forests for the past two years.

I remember my dad pulling into our driveway. There were pots, pans and buckets surrounding the house. I’d heard there was a water crisis in Cape Town, but thought my family had lost the plot. After putting my bags down, I told my dad that all I needed was a shower.

“Everyone in Cape Town needs one”, he replied with a smile.

Never did I think that the fact of my wanting a shower would start a conversation that is still ongoing about water in Cape Town today.

One time, in Bali, I once drove two hours to be submerged in fresh water that was also drinkable. The fact that you cannot open the tap and enjoy a glass of fresh pure H2O blew my mind and makes me feel sad.

That trip taught me to be grateful for water and how lucky I was to live in Cape Town, a city that had the best water coming straight from its taps.

That was until three years of drought hit home.

The reality of water scarcity & the promise of paddling

Today, there is a fifty-liter water cap per person per day. This may sound manageable at first, but two liters of water is what a human being should drink every day. One toilet flush uses thirteen liters per flush. The average American shower uses 17.2 gallons/65.1 liters and lasts for 8.2 minutes at average flow rate of 2.1 gallons per minute.  Each house in Cape Town now has a water meter attached to the pipes and if you exceed your limit then you get a letter in the mail and a fine.

So how do I save water?  I paddle.

By paddling, I eliminate the need to shower every day. When I get back from a paddle, I wash my gear and clothing in the water that my nieces bathed in.  It’s only an inch deep but you’d be surprised how much you can do with that inch of water.  After I have washed my clothing, whatever is left goes to the plants or is collected in a bigger bucket until it’s full enough to flush the toilet.

In this time of scarcity, paddle boarding is the only way that I can immerse myself in water guilt free.  It brings me so much relief from the intense heat here every day. Stand up paddling gives me the opportunity to really appreciate the landscape that Cape Town so effortlessly offers. Finding like-minded people out in the water that know how to fuel their recreational stoke makes me happy.

“In this time of scarcity, paddle boarding is the only way that I can immerse myself in water guilt free.”

Paddling allows me to experience my home from a different perspective and brings me comfort in this time as Day Zero draws near. Day Zero is when the taps officially run dry.

The irony: the town in which I lived in New Zealand, just had a mother of a storm that flooded through town and uprooted the roads. How are my friends coping with it?

Well, they’re Sup surfing the river mouth.

Written by Jacqui Smith @ayogifish