Top tips to save water

7 min read


Cape Town is in a state of emergency. The dams are at absurdly low levels and the government is (finally) getting serious about taking action to prevent a full-blown emergency. But Cape Town isn’t alone. Water is a scarce resource and water insecurity will probably become a major problem facing the world in the years and decades to come. We all need to start doing more to save water. So here are some ideas that you can implement starting today to help ease water shortages.

Save water by eliminating leaks

Water tap

This is fairly common sense, and yet might not be as obvious as you think. Linking toilets can be hard to see as water will slide down the side of the bowl and won’t make a noise and pipes leaking underground won’t even leave the ground wet but could be spilling thousands of liters. If you want to test if you have a leak, it’s a fairly easy process; simply close all your taps and check your meter reading, don’t flush any toilets but wait 15 minutes and check your meter again – if there’s a difference in your meter reading, you have a leak somewhere.

On this note, be sure to check your taps and other fixtures. Our sink used to be a bit loose which meant that you had to close the tap really tightly to stop potential dripping. It was a quick fix to tighten the tap and now I can wash my hands without worrying if I closed the faucet properly when I finished.

Finally, although not technically a leak, pools can lead to weird water wastage. Obviously, you already know to check for any leaks in your pool, but evaporation can then mean that you’re refilling your pool often. Get a pool cover to cut down on water evaporation.

Save water while still being hygienic

Water is most often used for cleaning, so when we hear about water restrictions one of the first concerns is our daily ablutions. But fear not, you can still be clean (and use clean clothes and dishes) while still being water conscious.

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The first culprit is the toilet. Don’t use your toilet as a dustbin – if you want to put a used tissue in there, go ahead, but then don’t flush it away if that’s the only thing in the bowl. Only flush when necessary; you can use the “if it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down” approach. Alternatively, look at upgrading to a multi-flush toilet so that you can use different water amounts as necessary.

Change your shower head. I know, this one makes me sad because I love a good shower, but you’d be surprised how nice a shower can still be with a water-saving shower head. Speaking of showers, be sure to collect the water from your showers, basins and other washing receptacles. This water can then be used for flushing toilets and watering plant, but please keep in mind that grey water has some health and hygiene risks to be careful how and where you reuse your water.

Washing clothes and dishes doesn’t have to be wasteful, either. Be sure to wait for a full load of clothing to wash, and the same goes for dishes if you’re using a dishwasher. Many appliances have an economical mode as well, so check through the various settings instead of always using that same one you have for years because it’s the only one you know.

Save water in the kitchen

Water glass

One of the obvious ways is not to leave the water running. Of course you want to clean your fruit and veggies, but don’t just run the water while you retrieve more veggies from the fridge.

Boiling water is a major part of cooking in many households. If you’re boiling water in the kettle, only fill the kettle with as much water as you will actually need – this also helps to save on electricity. Boiling water can also have multiple uses. Cooking up some rice? Put your veggie steamer over the pot and use that same water for a dual purpose. Boiling pasta? Save the water when you strain it and use that water (once cooled) for your plants.

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I know I’m not the only one who prefers cold water. Instead of running the tap to get the water cool enough before filling your glass or bottle, keep a pitcher in the fridge that you refill. The water will be nice and cool, plus you can even add mint leaves or cucumber slices for that spa vibe.

Learn about what needs washing and what doesn’t. Many of us were taught to wash everything before cooking, but often that isn’t necessary or even advisable. Washing meat doesn’t actually remove any bacteria that wouldn’t be destroyed in the cooking process anyway. In fact, washing chicken can actually be more of a health hazard; cooking the chicken will kill off all the bacteria found in raw chicken, but washing it can lead to contaminants getting all over your sink and splash areas. Just stop washing your meat before cooking. If you are really grossed out by the moisture of the packaging, use a paper towel to blot your meat dry instead of rinsing – the skin will crisp up nicer anyway.

Be aware

I know a lot of these tips seem like minor things, but be aware of how much they add up. Check your meter regularly and get a sense of how much water your household uses on a daily basis. Compare with friends. Be that irritating person at the braai that talks about water conservation. Sometimes just being aware can help you make small changes that add up, and inspire those around you to do the same.

Water is one of the scarcest resources globally, and the most necessary for life. Beyond droughts that can come and go, these are habits we need to learn and teach our children if life is to continue on this planet.

Last Updated: May 30, 2017

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • HvR

    If you do nat want to spend money (R500 to R1000) to retrofit your toilet and have more than one; set the ones level to only use a litre or 2 (set the float down and but a brick or 2 on the bottom). Dub that one the pisplek and the other with the full tank the full monty; use accordingly

    If your house and gutters allow DIY rain catchment and greywater for watering the garden or fill up the pool.

    Modern dishwasher use very little water and electricity; my Bosch uses 4 to 6 litres a wash cycle. So it is even worth it to run a second time for the pots since your wash basin will need 20 to 30 litres to properly wash. Also do not pre rinse, scraping off extra food and sauce is more than enough.

    • Hammersteyn

      I like the “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” method.

      • HvR

        Until somebody eats asparagus or some broccoli

        • Hammersteyn

          That’s why they invented air freshner

    • HairyEwok

      They could also fit their toilets with the japanese style sink, so when they flush they can wash their hands with the clean water first before it goes into the reservoir.

  • HvR

    If you have one of those HUGE old cement swimming pools get a builder to build a wall and split it in half. COver the one half with concrete slabs and paving. Now you have a pool side patio and underground rain water storage tank

    • Hammersteyn

      I don’t even have a garden 🙁

      • HvR

        I have big back garden which I’ve converted to a dust farms

        • Hammersteyn


    • miaau

      Yeah, my pool is fibreglass, but is slightly above average size. A bit smaller would be more helpful. Nice idea

  • GooseZA

    Keep a jug and a bucket next to all sinks / in the shower. Whenever you’re running the hot water taps, catch the cold water that comes out before the it gets hotter in the jug. Toss that in the bucket and then use the bucket to flush your loo’s when it’s got enough water.

    Do the same in the shower (although you can prob just catch the initial cold water straight in the bucket).

    • Andre116

      We boil a kettle and throw that in the sink. That way we don’t have to wait for the water to get warm.

  • Skittle

    I heard that when captonians are pretentious they need to drink a lot more water

  • Hammersteyn

    I drink my whiskey neat instead of with two blocks of ice, also I’m petitioning HR to allow us beer breaks instead of coffee. HR hates saving water.

  • Magoo

    Most importantly – when you are thirsty, save water by drinking beer.

    • Admiral Chief

      Fun fact, it takes 4 litres of water to create one litre of beer

      • R1ker

        Suddenly i am very glad i don’t stay in Cape Town. I like my beer 🙁

      • Magoo

        Then rather let’s save water to save beer!

        • Admiral Chief


      • HairyEwok

        You know that explains a lot all of a sudden…. All those craft beers being made there is causing the drought.

  • HvR

    Also braai steak, tjops or wors instead of making pasta or soup

  • Admiral Chief

    OR, just live in a proper province

    • HvR

      But immigrating to Quebec Province in Canada is expensive

      • Admiral Chief

        Just don’t eat the yellow snow

        • Dresden

          You reminded me of that W3 loading screen- “When the time of the White Frost comes, don’t eat the yellow snow.”

    • HairyEwok

      OR, just be as cool as bear grylls and you know make yellow snow cones.

  • Bear Grills drinks his own pee. Isn’t that the best way to save water? 😛

    On a more serious note. As someone who uses an underground water supply we have to be water wise all the time. The absolute best thing you can do is not to use a washing machine. Those things drink water like a thirsty camel.

    • HvR

      He even drinks Michelle Rodriguez’s pee

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