Defeated? Don’t be. There are so many things you can do to save water
ONLY IF YOU’VE BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK here at the southernmost tip of Africa could you be oblivious to Cape Town’s worst drought in 100 years, with its mayor recently announcing contingency plans for an ‘extreme disaster phase’. But Cape Town’s not alone, writes PAM BAILIE. Sydney and California are also using more water than they can replace, and many Italians currently have their water shut off for eight hours at a time. The United Nations predicts that in just seven years, two-thirds of the world will be living in water-stressed conditions.
If you or anyone you know is living in a water crisis region, check out these 10 simple water savers and pass them on. If you’re not currently affected, remember climate change means it could be you next. Water’s the new oil and it’s predicted that wars will eventually be fought over it. So why not make some of these habits second nature – and save money too?
1. YOUR CLOTHES: THE LOWDOWN We’re not suggesting you get to the stage where people are avoiding you, but it’s worth thinking before you launder. Eke out that sports or exercise kit: why not wash it weekly, since it’s only going to get dirty again once you start to exercise? Assess your casual wear too. According to the CEO of Levi’s, you never need wash your jeans apart from hand dabbing the odd spill. Which makes you more politically correct and your life easier in one fell swoop, hooray. It also takes 10 000 litres of water to make one pair of jeans, so true hipsters now hang onto their old pair and check out vintage shops. Pre-loved clothes are the new black, darling.
It’s official: jeans don’t need to be washed
2. WHEN YOU SHOWER… Ok so if you’re in a water-stressed area, you probably waved goodbye to the joys of a bathtub months ago. And you probably already catch your cold shower water in a plastic tub till it warms up. Well done thus far, kiddo. But how about standing in said tub and showering to catch all your shower water? It means your feet are effortlessly washed, plus it forces upon you a really quick shower since the tub fills up oh so quickly (eek).
3. I SAVED MY SHOWER WATER – WHAT NEXT? Most water heroes are already pouring their saved shower water into the loo to flush it from on high (the delicate amongst us with eyes averted). But have you thought of using it in your hand basins? Plug them, pour in some used shower water and use to wash hands all day long. Probably best to put a notice up in your guest loo asking visitors not to pull out the plug in case they think you’ve developed memory issues and tenderly pull it out for you…
4. LOCATE YOUR INNER VEGETARIAN? Meat production involves a crazy amount of virtual water (the ‘hidden’ water used to create a product). Half a kilo of beef has an average water footprint of 6 800 litres (1 800 gallons). Vegetables, grains and beans are far less water-costly. Just saying.
Save the world by eating more veg
5. TOP LOAD DON’T FREE LOAD The average washing machine uses about 80 litres per wash – help! Cut down drastically on your top loader’s guzzling by saving the water from your rinse cycle to re-use for your next wash. (Here’s the technical bit: disconnect the outlet pipe manually when it comes to the rinse part of the cycle and collect used rinse water in a washtub. Next time you wash, set the load size to small so that it uses minimum water, but fill your washing machine to the hilt with clothes. Use the saved rinse water to top up the water in the machine manually before the wash cycle starts)
6. FLIRT WITH YOUR PSYCHE Trust us, we know no-one feels like being virtuous all the time. If you or family members are feeling a little rebellious, try reading your water meter daily and writing yesterday’s consumption somewhere very obvious like the fridge. It works wonders, say those who do it.
7. LOVE YOUR GARDEN Make it easier to collect grey water for your garden by attaching a device to your outlet pipe. South Africans can try the Water Warrior. Don’t be scared, apparently even the DIY-challenged can manage it. Get it from a garden centre for between R29 and R129, but be sure to ask how to prevent back flow! Use grey water within a day of collecting.
Using a gadget to divert grey water to your garden is much easier and cheaper than you might think
8. SPRING TO IT Google springs in your area to see if there’s a water outlet near you – what a joy to collect this fresh water if so! Live in Cape Town? Try these fresh spring options: a) Newlands Village: Spring Way (drinkable water) b) Newlands general: South African Breweries, access off Claremont Boulevard (drinkable water) c) Kalk Bay: collection points at either end of the St James walkway (NB this Kalk Bay water not reliably for drinking though has many other uses)
9. BOREHOLE TALES PART ONE: WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY USED FOR? If you’re lucky enough to have a borehole or well point on your property, you can usually use the water to prepare food, wash clothes, wash yourself and water the garden. Get a sample analysed at an accredited lab first, though, as nasties like ecoli just might be splashing around in it. In South Africa, that means finding one via the South African National Accreditation System, click here to find one near you. Once your water’s passed the contaminants test, how about taking a supply of it instead of chocolates when visiting water-challenged friends and family?
10. BOREHOLE TALES PART TWO: CAN WE SAY CHEERS? Can you ever drink borehole or well point water? Well (haha) if you can afford a purification system for your entire house it’s the dream scenario as this can feed your every water need. With a starting point of around R30,000 this clearly ain’t for everyman. But it could be an amazing investment that not only relieves the strain on municipal supplies but raises the value of your house. If you’re in South Africa, manual systems usually reserved for rural off-the-mains Africa are available at H2O International for around R1500 – but it’s essential to test your water for metal content and other suitability issues first.
PS Just because you’re getting your water out of the ground doesn’t mean you should splash it around. Treat it like liquid gold, dear heart, who knows how much is down there…
Okay, this is random but we need a laugh by now, so the editor is offering the joke oft-repeated by her father in her childhood: Well, well, well: three holes in the ground...
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