Cape Town's “Day Zero” water crisis: A manufactured media event?

Jeroen F. Warner*, Richard Meissner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Day Zero was a purposefully designed narrative in political communication to change middle-class water consumption behaviour in a highly visible metropolitan context of persistent drought. As an “affective fact”, however it didn't so much elicit panic, but elicited a sense of fun and social solidarity in many. The unfeasibly precise prediction of water ‘running out’ the campaign obscured scientific uncertainties. In this context the contribution considers the role of ‘public’ scientists as highly visible authorities reinforcing or nuancing the Day Zero narrative. While the crisis narrative inevitably showed up rifts in South Africa's social fabric, and triggered protests against an underlying everyday crisis of water penury for marginalised urbanites. Our perspective is informed by documentary and press analysis, as well as a Focus Group Discussion with the South African National Press Club held on October 31, 2019.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102481
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Early online date24 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Cape town
  • Crisis construction
  • Day Zero
  • Drought crisis


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