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
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.
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
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.
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.
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