Cape Town water shortage

Activities exploring the realities of living with water shortages, how people's lives are affected and what they do to adapt.

Children filling containers with water
Lesson plan, photo
Geography, PSHE
Disasters and emergencies, Newsthink

These photo, discussion, gap fill and role-play activities focus on water shortages in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2018. Young people will consider how they would use their daily allowance of 50 litres of water and the emotions involved during times of drought. They will also discuss how to support people who need help and the places where water shortages are a constant reality.

Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • develop a sense of empathy for people who live with temporary water shortages
  • consider how they use water and ways to save water
  • discuss the practicalities of adapting to water shortages
  • think about people who live with water shortages every day.


Resource overview

1. Carrying water: Photo activity

Looking at a photo of a girl collecting water, think about how she may be feeling, who might find it difficult to carry extra water and help they may need.

2. Where the water goes: Discussion

Learners think about how best to divide 50 litres of water among daily tasks and which things are essential.

3. Day Zero: Discussion

Young people consider how it might feel living with the threat of running out of water, and how that might change behaviour.

4. Missing watery words: Gap fill activity

A gap fill activity with words related to droughts – including information learners may find surprising.

5. Water supplies: Developing empathy

A role-play activity exploring what life may be like for people who always live with water shortages.


This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in February 2018.

The photo shows a young girl filling water bottles from an outside tap in Cape Town, South Africa (© Morgana Wingard/Getty Images).