Aerial view of cape town

How Cape Town became a world leader in water reduction

In this episode of The city citizen podcast, the Mayor of Cape Town, Geordin Hill-Lewis, tells Meghan Mills how averting “Day Zero” led to a new strategy for water resilience.

In 2018, Cape Town faced the frightening prospect of “Day Zero” — the date on which there wouldn’t be enough water in the dams to supply fresh drinking water to its five million citizens.

For episode nine of The City Citizen, Geordin Hill-Lewis, the Mayor of Cape Town, tells Meghan Mills, EY Global Strategy and Operations Leader – Government and Public Sector, about the measures taken to avert the crisis. Also joining the conversation is Siham Salie-Abrahams, EY Western Cape Government and Infrastructure Leader.

A key measure was to engage citizens around the idea of Day Zero, which resulted in them cutting usage by more than 50% for over a year. Another was to improve pressure management, roll out smart meters and publish a weekly water dashboard that’s still popular today. The city’s next challenge? To generate 30% of its water needs from new sources by 2030 and continue to inspire other cities on the road to resilience.

Key takeaways:

  • Issues including climate change, poor water infrastructure and rapid urbanization mean that over half of the world’s population faces high water stress for at least part of the year.
  • Cities are addressing these challenges by installing smart meters, upgrading pipes and systems and diversifying water sources.
  • Leaders will need the long-term commitment of residents, as well as public-private partnerships, to manage the ongoing scarcity while building resilience through new water infrastructure.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon MusicApple Podcast and Spotify.

A full text transcript of this podcast is available­­­­­­ too.

Geordin Hill-Lewis
Mayor of Cape Town
Siham Salie-Abrahams
EY Western Cape Government and Infrastructure Leader


Episode 9


16m 38s