Siemens AirDrop initiative – a bit of reality

I’m sorry to have to do this. I already did it on Twitter, but clearly very few people saw that, so now I’m doing it here as well.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Gauteng travellers are being encouraged to swop their baggage allowance for water.
During a one-day activation at OR Tambo and Cape Town International airports, travellers can participate by having their luggage weighed at the Siemens AirDrop stand, located in the check-in hall opposite the self-service check-in counters (directly next to ACSA Info Desk at OR Tambo). Any travellers whose luggage is five (or more) kilos under the weight limit will be able to ‘exchange’ their unused kilograms for litres of water that will be delivered to Cape Town on their behalf.

Sounds great, because:

This social challenge is the perfect example of how South Africans can do something helpful for their fellow citizens’. So if you are travelling to the Mother City, show them some love and donate some water to help alleviate the pressure.

And let’s make this very clear right now: anything that alerts visitors to our current plight here, anything that raises awareness, anything that jogs their memory is a good thing.


I’ve been doing some rudimentary calculations and other than the raising awareness thing, this really isn’t going to help.

Around 2.2 million people fly from Joburg to Cape Town each year. It’s the 10th busiest route in the world. So it’s a good place to go if you want to find big numbers of people for a stunt an activation like this. But even if every single one of those annual travellers brought down 5 litres of lovely, fresh Gautengy water with them, it would only amount to…

11 million litres.

And while that sounds like a lot, there are a couple of other things to take into consideration before you get excited.
Right now, Capetonians are using 630 million litres of water each day. That’s 26.25 million litres an hour.

And now remember that this is “a one-day activation”, meaning that this offer will only apply to a maximum of just about 6000 people who will be flying that route that day. If every single one of them coming down that day donates 5 litres of water, that comes to 30000 litres.

That’s enough to keep us going for 4 seconds.

Four. Seconds. 


So yes, as a tool for raising awareness around the drought (and of Siemens, obviously), it’s great.

Siemens say:

It’s this kind of ingenuity that has made us the global leader in intelligent water management.

But as a way of intelligently managing water, this simply doesn’t work.

At all.


2 thoughts on “Siemens AirDrop initiative – a bit of reality

  1. Also, the PR guys did their job horribly wrong when it came to the initial info drop. Today there are a whole lot of NB follow up mails coming in:

    “Please note there has been some confusion regarding the Siemens AirDrop activation taking place – and we want to reiterate that this is a social experiment and not a call to action. Please can you ensure the below is relayed to your readers to avoid any confusion ahead of tomorrow.


    Siemens would like to clarify that the AirDrop experiment taking place on Friday 15 December is based on a voucher system and that passengers will not physically be checking in water when the fly from Johannesburg to Cape Town. Siemens AirDrop is a one-day social experiment to create awareness and see how quickly we can get 5 Tonnes of water from Jozi to CT using flights that are already scheduled. For the purposes of this experiment Siemens is using a voucher system: passengers with enough unused (5kg or more) luggage will receive a voucher – not a five-litre bottle of water. It is on a first come first serve basis, there are 1000 vouchers available. Siemens has pre-transported the water to Cape Town, and when passengers arrive they can either collect their water to use whilst in Cape Town, or Siemens will donate the water to Gift of the Givers. This is a social experiment to see what is possible, not a call to action.”

  2. Craig Lotter > Haha! Even funnier. Piss up in a Brewery (one using naturally sourced spring water and therefore not extracting volume from the municipal potable water reticulation system, obvs) springs to mind!

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