Our beautiful blue planet that is so stunning to look at from space, is habitable only because of its water. However, a staggering 95% of our water is in the oceans and is not usable unless de-salinated, which is an expensive process. Our supply of fresh water is miniscule in comparison, and more than 60% of that is in the form of ice. Our supply of drinkable water is so precious and yet we squander it without a thought. A thought-provoking fact is that one third of drinkable water around the globe disappears down the drain. That alone should make us sit up and take note!
It has been well publicised that the Western Cape is experiencing its worst drought in over a century, necessitating Cape Town officials to enforce the most stringent of water restrictions – now 50 litres per day per person. While the severity of the drought in the Western Cape cannot be understated, by now all South Africans should be well aware that the country as a whole is suffering a water crisis and all provinces have been told that severe water restrictions are likely to be implemented.
In KwaZulu-Natal, dam levels are reportedly at worrying levels and it was not that long ago that the greater Durban area saw eThekwini Municipality introduce water shedding in areas where demand outstripped supply - a similar initiative to Eskom's load shedding. Currently, a 15% reduction in water consumption is mandatory and this could change soon if there is not a dramatic change in usage. Already, water restrictors are being fitted to water meters in areas where residents are not complying with the 15% reduction.
The water situation in South Africa demands that every citizen do what they can to conserve water and to avoid reaching the same dire situation that Cape Town is in. There are many simple ways of doing so. Below are some practical water saving tips that are easy to implement:
Invest in a rain water tank to collect water from the gutters that would otherwise just go down the drain.
Connect a pipe from the nearest gutter down-pipe into your pool – you can use pool cleaner hoses and a 2 litre cool drink bottle to fashion your own system (and some pantyhose to catch any leaves.)
When not in use, make sure your pool has a solar blanket on it to minimise evaporation. An average uncovered pool loses over 4000 litres of water a month. A solar blanket can reduce evaporation by as much as 98%.
Don't allow leaky pipes, be it your pool pump, garden hose, sprinkler system etc, or dripping taps. Fix faulty toilet cisterns that continually run, or replace with water efficient models.
Use a broom instead of a hose to clean outside areas such as patios and driveways.
If you can't go without washing your car, use a bucket as opposed to a running hose or high pressure hose.
Don't wash dishes under a running tap. Rather use a second sink or preferably, a plastic bowl, and rinse off in there. Use the rinsing water to water plants. If you only have the one sink, wash the dishes, empty and then refill with fresh water to rinse with.
Fit aerators to kitchen and bathroom taps and a low-flow restrictor to the shower. These will reduce water usage by more than 50% but will not affect the effectiveness of your shower or the pressure out of the taps.
When you are running the hot tap until the hot water comes through, collect that water in a jug and use for brushing teeth and washing hands. And, do not leave the water running when you are brushing your teeth!
Take a “Navy Shower” – wet yourself, turn off the tap. Soap, lather and then turn on the water to rinse off. You can also stand in a plastic baby bath or a similar large basin whilst you are showering to catch the water. Use to fill the toilet cistern.
Have a bowl in the bathroom to wash your hands in, then put that water into the toilet cistern. Also, put a brick in the cistern to reduce the amount of water needed to flush. You can also watch as you flush and stop the flushing action as soon as possible.
When rinsing things like vegetables, place a container underneath to capture water and then use it to hydrate plants.
Investigate investing in High-efficiency washing appliances. They will not only reduce water usage but also use less electricity.
Connect your washing machine’s waste pipe to a hose to irrigate your garden. Contrary to common belief, this “grey water” is not harmful to your garden, and actually contains nutrients that are beneficial to plants. However, do not use washing up water as it contains fats, and dishwashing liquid is not good for your garden. There are companies that specialise in grey water collection and treatment systems.
Water in fish tanks becomes nutrient-rich - use for your plants or garden when cleaning the tank.
Check your water bill every month and keep tabs on your consumption. It is the only way you may realise that you have an underground leak in your system. If you do suspect that there might be one, there are plumbers who have special leak detection equipment. It may cost you in the short term, but rather that than having months of undetected leaks being added to your bill.
Educate your children about how precious a commodity water is. Young children especially, get very invested in ideals and they can become “the water police” in your household. The whole reason that we are so blasé about turning on a tap and expecting water, is because we have never been taught the value and the scarcity of water. Rural communities, would not know about Day Zero, because they have never had taps to run dry and they still have to walk to their nearest water source to collect water and then they have to carry back to their homes.
Go online. There are a multitude of ingenious and innovative ideas for water saving solutions to be found on the internet.
A lot of these ideas and suggestions may be old hat to you, but do you know about them and not use them? We get complacent because we have had rain at the coast, but the problem is that the catchment areas are not getting rain and this is what is causing concern. And remember, if you save water, you are not just saving the planet, you are also saving money!!!
It was Mahatma Gandhi who famously said, "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."
Make sure you do your bit !!!
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