The City of Cape Town relies on surface water for nearly 98% of its bulk water supply. As a result of a decline in rainfall between 2015 and 2018 (which internationally became known as the “Day Zero” drought), Cape Town was on the brink of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of bulk water (resulting in the drought being declared a regional and national emergency). 

During this 1:590 year drought the total Western Cape Water Supply System surface water dam capacity dropped to 20% (at the end of summer 2017 and 2018). Extensive water conservation and water demand measures were implemented and Cape Town residents were limited to 50 litres per person per day, with many collecting groundwater in containers at natural springs and/or from privately drilled boreholes. 

Local leadership appreciated that groundwater existed but that the knowledge and infrastructure necessary to access and integrate these resources into the local and regional bulk water reticulation networks was absent and urgently needed.  

The work of TUF started in 2017 in response to this knowledge and implementation gap. At its onset TUF was funded solely by sister hydrogeological and earth science consultancy Umvoto Africa and was first presented at the Green Climate Fund Conference in April 2019.  In 2020 TUF was registered as a NPO and began to engage with various organisations independently. 


At the heart of TUF, is an iterative, collaborative, reflective and responsive approach incorporating complex systems thinking. This requires a human layer that involves all participants, including the local and cultural communities, as well as technical and administrative persons actively and continuously collaborating as custodians of water and environmental resources. Collaboration is difficult especially in a hierarchical and habitually competitive environment. However, collaboration is the mainstay of most art and cultural processes. The integration of transformative art practice can release participants from the constraints of explanation and logic revealing domains of imagery, possibility, metaphor, and paradox, through which the highest levels of humanity can be expressed.  

From the beginning TUF has leveraged prior research and our relationships within the scientific and engineering communities to bring together the appropriate combinations of expertise and local knowledge. Today our team features world-class research, scientific, engineering, health, artistic, cultural and public engagement expertise. TUF will partner with established NPOs, civil society groups and the private sector wherever possible. Diverse projects are envisaged in the Critical Zone Observatory.