Western Cape Premier Helen Zille recently revealed in a newspaper column that she is currently only showering every third day. Though some initially expressed confusion at the confession, others jumped to her defense.
The reason that the leader of the Western Cape province has decided to forgo regular showers, and announce it publicly, is because she wishes to create awareness about Cape Town’s disaster drought situation, and indicate her willingness to get involved in water-saving measures.
Zille claimed in her regular newspaper column that she now only takes a brief shower every three days, and washes in a hand basin on the days in between. She has also cut back on hair washing.
‘I used to wash my hair every day, but now only when I shower‚ with visibly negative consequences,’ she wrote in the column. ‘However‚ I regard oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car.’
The Western Cape and city of Cape Town are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in over a century. City officials and residents had hoped that winter rainfall would replenish dams that supply the city with water, however this has not been the case. Water levels have only risen slightly over the rainy season, and the likelihood of facing a ‘Day Zero’ (when water supplies run out) early in 2018 is increasing daily.
City-wide water restrictions have also had a limited impact. Currently, residents must use less than 87 litres (23 gallons) of water a day. With the average shower using upwards of 60 litres (15.8 gallons), limiting bathing time is a logical way to reduce water usage. Those guilty of using more than their allocated limit face the possibility of fines or even imprisonment.
Many have criticised city officials for inaction in the early stages of the drought, and some claim that Zille’s shower revelation is a publicity stunt that’s too little too late. Others were quick to point out on social media that many living in the Western Cape’s informal settlements still do not have access to luxuries like showers and running water in their homes, even outside of water restrictions.
Though many in the city were divided by the Premier’s comments, the city’s water situation is unlikely to improve unless all residents and businesses take extreme measures to reduce water usage.