CAPE TOWN: Facing the worst drought in a century, Cape Town has developed an innovative campaign with popular music artists to encourage people to spend less time in the shower by compressing some of the country’s favourite songs.

Last May, city authorities urged residents to keep showers under two minutes in length as a response to the water crisis. When showering, people are at their most wasteful, using up to 10 litres of water every minute – meaning that just a five-minute shower will use up residents’ daily allowance of 50 litres a day.

In November, the city launched a campaign co-sponsored by the financial services firm Sanlam, taking as inspiration the impulse people feel to sing in the shower. According to Quartz Africa, the execution involved asking ten of South Africa’s biggest artists to re-arrange their most popular songs so that they would last exactly two minutes.

Launched with a website,, the songs were then played on radio, TV, and streaming platforms.

Susan van Rooyen, a copywriter at King James Group, the creative agency behind the campaign, told Quartz that public service announcements using scare tactics will often have the reverse effect. Just “like the warnings on cigarette packs. They want to rebel against them”.

However, “If you give them a tool that’s already part of their daily life it’s much easier for them”. Van Rooyen added that the idea should be adopted around the world to help other drought-prone cities and regions, such as California.

Cape Town’s water crisis not only affects residents, but also one of the main economic drivers of the city: tourism. Airbnb helped promote the reduced songs by placing messaging in as many as 1,000 homes on the platform. In order to gain the maximum possible reach, the campaign compressed songs from four of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

The sped-up tempo of the songs reflects the frantic need to create change. While almost all campaigns have tight deadlines, Cape Town is working to one much bigger and much deadlier than most. On the 9th July, the city is expected to run out of water completely. Last week, the government of South Africa declared the drought a “national disaster”, after reassessing the magnitude and severity of the three-year drought.

Sourced from News24, Quartz,, BBC; additional content by WARC staff