The City of Cape Town’s health department has emphasised the importance of washing hands and food with clean water as people skimp on water use to push #DayZero even further…

“We are all on high alert,” said Virginia De Azevedo, a manager in the City of Cape Town’s health department, at a water crisis update in Goodwood on Monday.

November to May is “Diarrhoea Season” when the city is usually on high alert for waterborne and communicable diseases such as cholera, food poisoning, typhoid, hepatitis A and listeria, said Azevedo.

“The point is to be on top of it, to take early steps,” said De Azevedo.

“It is a pity if a scare in water availability reduces sanitary practices,” she said.

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Christa Hugo, co-ordinator for health programmes, said as people stockpile water, draw water from springs and boreholes, and reuse household water, the city has been inundated with questions over hygiene risks.

She put together a list of dos and don’ts and tips for residents and visitors:

  • There are about 70 springs in the city, but that water is not safe to drink because it has not been tested yet;
  • Testing has started on 10 springs that are situated in residential areas in Cape Town, but in the meantime, it is not safe to drink the spring water;
  • Spring water can be used around the house for other things like washing dishes, flushing loos, body washing;
  • Borehole water is not safe for drinking, cooking, washing, personal health and hygiene, but it can be used for flushing the toilet and for cleaning outside the home;
  • A registered plumber must connect the borehole water supply to the city’s system on your property if you want to run a direct line into the city’s system for flushing. This is to avoid contaminating the city’s drinking water.
  • Untreated rain water is not safe for drinking – think of the possible pigeon poop in it;
  • Grey water is water left over from washing dishes, bathing, laundry and is collected to be reused for toilet flushing. It should not be kept for longer than 24 hours because it has contaminants like bacteria and dead skin cells in it;
  • Do not use grey water to wash your hands, your food and vegetables, or yourself;
  • Grey water from washing dishes must not be used to wash dishes again;
  • Grey water must not be used to clean household surfaces;
  • Water poured into containers for stockpiling starts changing after three days. This water must be used within a week, and the container and its tap thoroughly washed and sanitised before it is refilled;
  • Do not sterilise grey water for drinking;
  • Store-bought sealed bottled water has a use by date – check this date;
  • Sanitise the scoops used to take water out of water buckets;
  • Do not store water in wheelie bins;


While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.