Currently the City of Cape Town Metropole is sitting with a never seen before water crisis. With rapid population growth, urban sprawl and an influx of tourism, coupled with the lack of consistent development, maintenance and improvement of equipment, the water provisions of yore are no longer able to support the residents of the city (legal and illegal). Cape Town sits in a winter rainfall climate, and, when the dam levels started to drop at a rapid rate during the very hot summer of 2016/2017, and after not recovering during the mild winter of 2017, water (or the lack thereof) is number one on everyone’s minds.
As a means to curb water wastage, the City of Cape Town Municipality issued tiered water restrictions, the first of which was level 1 water restrictions, calling on residents to be smarter with their water consumption. Levels 2 and 3 banned car washing, watering of gardens with grey water (which, in all honesty, should have been disallowed in any water scarce country a long time ago) and the use of hosepipes. The City is currently on level 5 water restrictions. The use of a hosepipe is long forgotten and, to most, an exciting part of going on holiday is the ability to take a bath.
As much as the situation is rather dire, it has meant, however, that the whole of Cape Town has come together and the topic of sustainable water use is a discussion everyone takes part in. From the poorer suburbs to the richer, leafier parts of town, the fight for water conservation has become everyone’s fight. For someone who has been talking about sustainability, and how we all need to be cognisant of not living beyond our means, it is refreshing for everyone to be joining me on my bandwagon. Talking, thinking and doing the same things for an extended period of time often leads to a stagnancy of ideas. I have been very impressed by the ingenious ideas which people have come up with to conserve water at home.
My work focuses on sustainability in organisations – from small office to warehouses. My knowledge of implementation of sustainability in homes is limited to my own, and I am not often asked to help by my friends or family, so it has been great to read the exciting ideas that people have suggested to conserve water at home.
Here are some examples (from the simple to the more extreme):
- Shower in a bucket and use this ‘grey water’ to flush the toilets. Using clean drinking water to flush toilets is absolutely ridiculous, and a 4 minute shower can mean 40 litres of water wasted. This ‘grey water’ can also be used to water the lawn or reused to clean the floor.
- Adjust your washing machine outlet pipe outside to feed into your garden instead of into your sewer. Use eco-friendly washing detergents and softeners.
- Cover swimming pools with a cover to prevent evaporation. Many people have filled theirs in, or converted them to an eco-pool. Backwashing a pool uses 200-900litres of water, which is now being charged at a premium rate. Eco-pools also encourage biodiversity in the area.
- Place water displacement devices in cisterns to prevent using excessive amounts of water when flushing.
- Harvest rainwater in tanks and divert gutter outlets to various areas of the garden.
- Dry shampoo for dogs: Half a cup of corn flour and half a cup of bicarbonate of soda with 10 drops of lavender oil (other people subsequently suggested using tea tree oil, peppermint oil and other essential oils so long as they are adequately diluted) and put it into a shaker (or make your own using a large pill bottle with holes poked in it). Shake it on to your smelly pupper, rub it in (and revel in the happiness created), leave for 10 minutes and then brush well.
- Let it mellow: It is not necessary to flush every time you use the toilet (which uses approximately 27litres a flush) and it is suggested to only flush after three number ones. How then do you keep track if you are in an office environment or live in a shared house? 2 shot glasses and three marbles does the trick. Place the shot glasses on top of the cistern and every time someone goes to tinkle they move a marble from the left glass to the right. Once the last marble is moved to the right shot glass, it’s time to flush, and for that shot glass to move to the left, ready to start again.
Most of the ideas require a cheap trip to the local shop, and save thousands of litres of water a day. The level 5 water restrictions has the City of Cape Town asking residents to stick to 87litres of water, per person, per day. Do you think you could?