Tough new water restriction in Cape Town came into force on February 1 and FEDHASA, the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa has called on its members to optimise water resource management across the industry.

Dam levels had dropped to below 40 per cent by the end of January and water chiefs in the city warned that the final 10 per cent of dam water is unusable and there ois no positive forecast for rainfall.

“It is not just critical that tourism and hospitality establishments adhere to the letter of the current water restrictions,” says FEDHASA CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa (pictured left). “We also face the challenges of educating guests and visitors and bringing them on board with the country’s water-saving efforts in this time of severe drought.”

In a media statement FEDHASA says it keeps its members abreast of current water shortage situations as well as promotes best practices in water resource management on an on-going basis.

Tsogo Sun Hotels, for example, place notices in bathrooms that educate guests on water restrictions as well as their water-saving linen and towel replacement schedule. Under this program bed linen is only changed on every third day of each guest’s stay, if a change is not requested sooner, and towels that are hung up are not changed each day, unless upon request. In addition, Tsogo Sun Hotels has installed water meters and shower heads with “restricted flow” which assist greatly with the task of limiting water usage.

In Cape Town many of its top hotels already employ environmental management techniques of international standard, says FEDHASA. The V&A Waterfront introduced water-saving initiatives almost a decade ago that spokesperson Enid Vickers says save about 9 million litres of water a month in each of its buildings ("9,000 kilolitres of water per building per month"), according to the FEDHASA statement.

The stringent level 3B water restrictions in Cape Town, which only allow the use of municipal water for irrigation (using a bucket or watering can), and just on Tuesdays and Saturdays, for merely one hour a day either before 9am or after 16pm, are a strong motivator for hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs to devise grey water systems (recycling of water used for washing and non-polluting uses) to maintain the attractiveness of their properties.

FEDHASA member, The Townhouse Hotel has so far successfully motivated its guests to participate in their emergency grey water system. The hotel educates guests about the current drought conditions and inspires responsible tourism by providing buckets in bathrooms. Guests have been encouraged to take short showers with buckets placed in the stalls. These are routinely collected and used to water the hotel gardens and trees.

“Environmental management best practices, innovations and the constant promotion and facilitation of responsible tourism at establishment level is vital,” says Tshifhiwa. “Current water shortages and the issues of how to include our guests in the country’s water-saving efforts are high on the agenda for the upcoming FEDHASA meeting on 10 February.

"However, this drought is not some kind of ‘once-off’ occasion. As the effects of climate change intensify, and because South Africa has always been a water-stressed region, we encourage our members to make long-term sustainability a key focus of their operations. Proper water management includes water harvesting, water recycling and natural water purifying; as well as water monitoring and audits; and, constant water-saving practices from the basic usage by guests to implementing water-efficient systems that range from the air-conditioning to kitchen, and from the bathroom to the food garden.”

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