With the rainstorms and snowfalls that have accompanied the winter of 2011, it might be hard to imagine that South Africa could be facing a water crisis – but experts say that unless we start taking water saving measures seriously, we could see demand exceeding supply as soon as 2020. With another scorching summer just around the corner, South Africans will need to be especially careful when it comes to saving water.
Of course, it’s important to keep good water saving habits all year long – but once the sizzling SA summer rolls around, demand for water will rise, while supply is likely to drip. We all need to play our part in saving water and averting the looming crisis. Fortunately there are plenty of easy ways to make your home and garden a water saving zone.
Plug the Problems
It’s important to regularly check your home for leaking taps and dripping pipes – if a leak loses even 1 litre of water every hour, it will have wasted enough water to fill a whole bathtub by the end of the week! Whether you’re a DIY dynamo or prefer to hire a professional plumber, be sure to fix all leaks and avoid wasting gallons of precious water.
We all know that a shower uses significantly less water than a bath, but it can still be unexpectedly heavy on water consumption. The average shower head expels around 18 litres of water a minute – meaning a shower of 10 to 15 minutes will use up close to 200 litres! As a first step towards massive daily water savings, consider installing a low-flow shower head, which will use only 8 litres of water a minute.
Think at the Sink
Little changes to your daily habits in the bathroom can make a big difference when it comes to water savings. Instead of leaving the tap running while you brush your teeth or shave, plug the basin and run the small amount of water you need, then turn the tap off. Only turn it on again to rinse.
Sounds like a small, silly thing to worry about doesn’t it? But you might be surprised to know that you use 6 litres of water every minute you leave that tap running, wasting up about 30 litres in the 5 minutes it takes to brush your teeth. So when brushing twice a day you’re wasting around 420 litres of water every week! It’s amazing how much water you’ll be saving simply by turning the tap off during those few minutes.
Loads of Savings
Don’t use your dishwasher until you have a full load of dishes; and wait until you have a full load of laundry before using your washing machine. Running larger, less frequent loads is an easy method of saving water, electricity and expensive detergent – and let’s be honest, it’s an eco-friendly excuse to do less housework!
How do I phrase this politely? Well, in times of drought or short water supply, conscientious households will often adopt the motto ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellowâ; if it’s brown, flush it down.’ This charming little saying makes a lot of sense, given the fact that a single toilet flush can use as much as 13 litres of water, but understandably it’s not a very popular (or hygienic) water saving method.
There is an alternative however: installing a water saving dual-flush mechanism will give you a short-flush and long-flush option for liquid and solid waste. It’s a great investment when you think about the fact that toilets account for around 30% of household water usage. For a cheaper solution, you can also place a water saving device in your toilet tank – it simply displaces water and means the tank will fill up with less water than usual.
Pet owners can also take water saving measures when caring for their four-legged friends; when washing your dog (or for the exceptionally brave among you, your cat), set up a pet grooming bath or paddling pool outside, so the used water can be poured straight onto the lawn and plants. (Animal lovers please note: this is only suitable for warm or mild weather, in a secure garden.)
When giving your pet fresh water every day, don’t pour the old water down the drain – save it for your lawn, flowerbed or house plants.
Speaking of which, you’ll find there are plenty more water saving tips you can use in your garden as well as in your home:
On Your Turf
Only water your lawn when necessary; avoid watering during the hottest part of the day, as this will cause the water to evaporate rapidly. A tried-and-tested water saving method is to soak your lawn early in the morning, or just before the sun sets in the evening. It’s also helpful to let your grass grow a little longer, allowing it to retain more moisture; put a layer of mulch around trees for the same result.
Local is Lekker
Any water-wise gardener knows that indigenous plants will use significantly less water than alien plants; they are better adapted to the South African climate and have adapted to save water and thrive even in hot, dry conditions. Planting indigenous shrubs, cacti and fynbos in your garden is a great way of saving water, and this beautiful local flora will give you the added benefit of turning the neighbours green with envy!
Close that Hose
When tidying up the garden path, pavement or driveway, use a broom instead of the garden hose. The same goes for cleaning your car: using a couple of buckets full of water will save about half of what you’d use if you turned the hose on.
From long sunny days on the beach, to braais in the backyard, there are so many things to look forward to when summer arrives – so let’s all do our bit to make sure this beautiful summer isn’t spoiled by issues like water cuts and shortages. Doing your bit for the environment doesn’t have to be something as extravagant as purchasing a fully fledged solar water heating system for your home. A little thought and consideration goes a long way!
Illustration by Ahmed Othman. Source