Is It Safe To Drink The Water In Cape Town?

is the water in cape town safe to drink

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Cape Town is a city steeped in history, surrounded by natural beauty… and plagued by a massive rumour about the quality of drinking water.

Well, I’m somebody who’s had a chance to drink (and enjoy) the water in Cape Town. And I’m here to dispel the myths and mysteries that may make you hesitate when you hold a glass underneath a tap in the Mother City.

But before I go any further: YES, you can drink the tap water in Cape Town.

Water In Cape Town: The Rumours

The rumours surrounding the quality of the tap water in the City of Cape Town have one source. They can be traced to a WhatsApp message which spread across the country in March 2023.

It claimed that the city’s tap water was highly contaminated. The reason was that load-shedding (scheduled power cuts) was impacting the decontamination and chlorinating process.

It’s not the first rumour that’s been spread about Cape Town’s water supply. And, with Cape Town’s history of water-related issues, it’s easy to see why people may believe it.

These rumours simply aren’t true.

The City of Cape Town tests around 5,700 water samples each year, taken from various points around the city.

While there are a few points that have varying scores because of damage to the infrastructure, the quality is pretty good overall.

With that many samples, there’s definitely a lot of observation and analysis being done.

Let’s take a look at how water quality in Cape Town is handled.

is the water in cape town safe to drink

Quality Assurance

The City of Cape Town has strict rules and processes in place to monitor the quality of drinking water.

I mentioned that tests are done on thousands of samples each year, taken from various points in and around Cape Town. These samples are thoroughly tested to ensure the water is as clean as possible.

There are some other steps in place to ensure water quality.

Protocol

Cape Town follows South Africa’s SANS:241 regulations to ensure the water is safe to drink. They test a lot of water samples.

There are 12 water treatment plants in Cape Town that purifies all of the tap water that flows through the City. In those plants, they take and test samples every 2 hours. They do that every day of the year. They end up doing around 472,300 chemical and biological tests each year.

And they release reports on the quality of water and sanitation each year. They do this to make sure everyone in the City of Cape Town knows what the quality of the water they’re drinking is like (which, spoiler, is completely safe).

So, Is the Water Safe to Drink?

Yes! The water in Cape Town is definitely safe to drink, as long as you’re in an urban area.

In fact, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, signed agreements with the Netherlands and Finland to help monitor and maintain water quality in South Africa.

These two countries have the strictest water regulations in the world – so it’s safe to say clean water is taken seriously.

The Department of Water and Sanitation also has incentive programs in place to reward water plants for receiving Blue Drop Awards.

Blue Drop Awards are awarded to cities that have exceptionally clean water.

boiling water to drink

Cleaning Unsafe Water

Water in urban areas is completely fine to drink. But if you find yourself in an area without municipal water or you find the water a bit dodgy, you could try some of the methods below to clean potentially unsafe water.

Boiling

Boiling water for a minimum of 3 minutes is enough to kill any dangerous bacteria and make sure it’s safe to drink.

Bleach

You can also add a teaspoon of bleach for every 25 litres of water and let it sit for 2 hours.

Direct sunlight

You could also try leaving the water in direct sunlight. This method is the most time-consuming, since you have to leave it in a transparent container that’s got a little bit of airspace for 6 hours. You’ll have to shake it after filling it up, and every hour after that.

Filter

The easiest of these methods is using a filter. It’s an easy way to avoid having to stress about cleaning water. You could use a faucet mount, which you pop onto your tap.

If you’re out and about, you can get a portable filter. These are convenient, but some of them don’t filter viruses, so make sure you read up on them before making a purchase.

The other option is to use a filtering straw. These can filter around 4,000 litres and are easy to keep with you. Unfortunately, they don’t filter forever, so you’ll eventually have to get another one.

Bottled water

It’s not technically a way to clean water, but it’s definitely important to have on the list. Bottled water is available in any shop or petrol station, and it’s always a good idea to have some with you just in case.

drinking bottled water

FAQs

Which areas in South Africa have the cleanest water?

According to the 2023 Blue Drop Watch Report, the top three areas with the cleanest water are:

  1. Gauteng
  2. Western Cape
  3. Eastern Cape

Where does Cape Town get its drinking water?

Cape Town’s water supply comes from 14 nearby dams. There are also a total of 25 reservoirs that hold water in case of an emergency.


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