Water Use in the U.S. vs. Cape Town

If you take a five-minute shower and flush your toilet once, you’ve already used more than the daily allotment of water for Cape Town, South Africa, residents. As the city approaches “Day Zero,” the day that Cape Town is expected to run out of water, strict regulations have been implemented to extend the life of the available water supply. At first, residents were limited to 23 gallons per person per day, but now they are restricted to 13 gallons, pushing “Day Zero” back from June 4 to July 9.

In recent days, even though its dams are still only at 23.6 percent of capacity, the government of Cape Town claims that “Day Zero” has been pushed back even further to 2019, thanks to the water restrictions.

As Cape Town faces this water shortage, other cities around the globe should take note. In order to put the current crisis in perspective for Americans, we created the following graphic to compare the average amounts of household water use in the U.S. to the current daily restrictions for Capetonians.

Bar chart showing the daily water usage in the U.S. vs in Cape Town.

View the text-only version of this graphic.

Citation for this content: MPH@GW, the online MPH program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University