A groundbreaking template for post-crisis learning and
the pre-eminent source for learnings from the
Cape Town water crisis

During 2017-2018, in the grip of a multiyear drought of unprecedented severity, the South African city of Cape Town suffered a water crisis so severe that its four million residents faced the prospect of ‘Day Zero’. On this day, water supplies to most households and businesses would have been turned off and residents would have had to collect daily water rations from central collection points. The Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative, supported by The Resilience Shift, has captured and distilled lessons to be learned from this crisis through conversations with local decision makers. These insights are valuable for all cities tackling their own water challenges, and for all those making decisions about urban resilience.


in-depth interviews


curated series


learning outputs


hours of film to watch

Watch the introductory film

Explore the learning outputs

The learning outputs presented here offer nuanced considerations of the key themes that emerged from the crisis, expert observations and personal viewpoints. These have been distilled from in-depth filmed interviews with a wide range of knowledgeable individuals from government, business, academia and civil society, drawing on their first-hand experience, research and reflections.

Meet the interviewees

Between September 2018 and September 2019 we invited thirty-nine people who had been involved in responding to the water crisis to come for a detailed interview on camera in a sound studio. Each interview involved structured questions based on prior research of that individual’s work and role in the drought response, but also grew organically as the conversation developed, in most instances over several hours. In every case we were struck by our interviewee’s willingness to engage in the process of reflection for the purpose of documenting and collective learning.