Water Shortage in Cape Town, South Africa

Let’s be honest for a minute, bars and restaurants are pretty inefficient when comes to environmental awareness. Steps are being taken everywhere to improve on this and in Cape Town there isn’t much of a choice. I met Ray Endean on a Havana Club Rum trip last year and picked his brain about the cocktail community in Cape Town South Africa. Recently news has come out that Cape Town is running out of water. We reached out to Ray to ask how he and his bar Orphanage are adapting to this unfortunate situation.

Water Shortage in Cape Town | Bartender Atlas

Bartender Atlas: When did you start working in bars?
Raymond Endean: I actually started as a runner in 1998 (I was 17) and moved into bartending at the age of 19.

BA: What style of bartending were you doing? 
RE: I’ve pretty much always been involved in high volume cocktail bars in Cape Town and London.

BA: You have done some travelling, how would you describe Cape Town’s cocktail and bar scene?
RE: From about 2012 the cocktail culture in Cape Town took a turn for the better. The World Class program came to town and I was fortunate enough to have opened my bar right then. The exponential growth of the cocktail and bar in South Africa has been quite amazing in such a short space of time and I can honestly say that our standards are on a global level. Given the likes of bars such as The House Of Machines, Asoka, Sin Tax, Mootee Bar, Cause & Effect and of course my personal favourite, Orphanage Cocktail Emporium we are def heading down the right road for future global success.

Water Shortage in Cape Town | Bartender Atlas

BA: News came out recently about water shortages in Cape Town. News stories like this are sometimes exaggerated, how dire is this situation?
RE: To be totally honest it seems to be pretty dire according to all news reports that I am hearing here in Cape Town. The taps are still running though and I am showering in a bucket in the shower and using that to flush my toilet. I went hiking on Saturday and the rivers were full so it’s a little confusing at times.

BA: How is that affecting your business?
RE: In my now 20 years in the industry I have never seen Cape Town as quiet as it was in December and January. Most businesses are reporting a much quieter season than the previous. I am fairly sure the water issues have had a significant role to play in this as well as other factors.

BA: Has this ever been a concern in Cape Town before? 
RE: Nothing close to the concern being shown now. We have had water restrictions during summer for many years but never to the level that we are seeing. We are currently required to use no more than 87L of water per person per day with about 40% of the people in Cape Town sticking to this. The next restrictions to be put into place I’m hearing on the 1st of Feb will see us not being able to use more than 50L of water per person per day. If the day comes where they switch off the taps I have heard that it will only be for residential and not for businesses. End of April is when the taps go off unless we get a lot more rain.

Water Shortage in Cape Town | Bartender Atlas

BA: What sorts of systems have you got in place to keep making excellent drinks while reducing your water usage? 
RE: We have put certain water saving measures in place. About 5 months ago we installed glass rinsers (like you find on draught taps) to clean our shakers and tools instead of taps in the bar. We found that bartenders will leave the taps running while taking an order which uses too much water. We are also looking at installing sensors on our bathroom taps to reduce water usage. We have signs in the bathrooms, although its mostly about educating staff and guests on why we need to save water which probably has the best reaction.

BA: How has this water shortage changed the way you think of creating drinks and serving your guests?
RE: Not at this point. We haven’t cut ice out of our drinks. It’s more the taps in the bar that were of the most concern. 

BA: Unfortunately, We all know that environmental concerns are only going to continue to get worse everywhere in the world. Any hot tips for bartenders and imbibers from other places on the planet as to how you might prepare for something like this? 
RE: I think if they Google drought tips Cape Town they will be able to find ample info. A number of houses have been buying massive water containers and attaching their drain pipes to them for water catchment. It’s interesting though as I was in Durban recently and they are not having any water issues. I tried but really couldn’t force myself to have a long shower. My mindset has become accustomed to saving water. As it is we are only allowed to have one 90 second shower per day.

I think for far too long we have taken water for granted. It is a precious life giving commodity and we all need to be wise with how much we are using.

Lets hope Cape Town can get its act together and will have the desalinisation pumps up and running before D-day hits.

We hope so too! Thank you, Ray for taking the time to talk with us.

Josh Lindley
Co-Creator at Bartender Atlas
Josh Lindley has been bartending in Toronto since 2007. Before working for Hendrick's Gin as a Brand Ambassador he was bar manager at Campagnolo and a hired gun at Bar Isabel before working at Chantecler, Le Phenix and Eataly. He has contributed to many magazines, tv shows and newspapers with his recipes and opinions. He recently put his diploma in Radio Broadcasting from Humber College to good use through The Blackbird audio documentary. Currently pouring at Civl Liberties and teaching cocktail classes for Evelyn Chick's Love of Cocktails, he enjoys being an ambassador to Toronto and talking about horror movies, punk rock and basketball.
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