South Africa is experiencing its worst drought in over 100 years. A combination of climate change and poor planning has led to a dire situation, particularly in Cape Town and the Western Cape. We are nearing the end of winter and our dams are only 29% full (effectively 19% as the last 10% is unusable). This time last year, the dams were 55% full. To say we’re in trouble is an understatement.
And yet there are still people who don’t adhere to the water restrictions of using 87l or less per person per day. Perhaps saving water seems complicated. Everyone is sharing their many different techniques and arguing over what is and isn’t acceptable. It can be confusing and intimidating, especially to those who have yet to make a start, especially when the dialogue turns aggressive.
That is why today I am sharing a simple solution. There is just one thing you need to start doing in order to save tons of water. Here it is:
Always reuse the water you use.
This principle is a simple one. Try to allow as little water from the tap to go down the drain as possible. Rather, collect it to be used a second time. In the rest of this post, I’ll be showing you where to start collecting this water and where to reuse it safely.
Where to collect water
Wherever there’s a tap, there your trusty receptacles (buckets, bowls, etc.) should be also. Here are some basic places to cover:
- Bathroom sinks
- Kitchen sinks
- Prep bowls
- Showers and baths
- Washing machine
- Outside taps
Empty ice-cream tubs work best for sinks and won’t cost you extra to start using. Use larger buckets for the other areas, while water from the dishwasher or washing machine will have to be diverted directly into the garden or into a grey water system.
For an added bonus, collect rainwater from your gutters by either diverting them into your garden or placing a large bucket where you get the most run-off. It’s also possible to get the water to run directly into your pool with a few extra pipes and some imagination. You can do it, I believe in you! We managed to do this at our house and have not topped up our pool with tap water for years.
Where to reuse water
The best place to reuse water is the toilet. Ever since the drought became apparent, I’ve become very uncomfortable with the idea of flushing away waste with perfectly good drinking water. When my family started using only grey water to flush the toilet, our monthly water usage dropped drastically! It was the biggest factor in ensuring that we stuck to the daily recommended 87l.
The toilet isn’t the only place to reuse water. You can also water your garden with grey water, and use it to wash your (hopefully filthy by now) car, if the water isn’t too dirty already.
And you can drink the water you collect. Now, before you keel over from a heart attack, I’m not talking about drinking grey water. While waiting for your shower water to heat up, the water flowing from the tap is uncontaminated, potable water. Collect that in a separate bowl and set it far to the side once you start to wash. Boil it if you wish, but this water is perfectly drinkable. We haven’t died from it yet.
Not an excuse to use more water
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the only thing you should be doing to save water. And just because you are reusing all your water doesn’t mean you can start using lots of it. Remember, the daily restriction is 87l per person per day. The point isn’t to create as much grey water as possible. The point is to use water sparingly, and then to reuse what we do use.
You remember the adage reduce, reuse, recycle? First, reduce how much you use, then reuse what you do use.
But isn’t this inconvenient?
Collecting water from all the various points, filling the toilet cistern manually, and diverting water to where it can be reused may seem inconvenient at first. But trust me, within a week, you will get used to the routine. You’ll begin to wonder why you ever allowed this reusable water to go to waste in the first place. And when it’s reflected on your water bill, you’ll never go back.
But if you still think all of this is too inconvenient, just think how inconvenient standing in a miles-long queue to collect your daily water ration will be when our dams run dry.
Suck it up buttercup.
Sorry, not sorry.
I’m normally not this mean.
I’d like to add a word to my international readers, and for those who aren’t currently being affected by drought: Even when water seems to be in abundance, it is important not to take this precious resource for granted.
Clean drinkable water requires energy to produce, and so the less we are able to use, the better it is for the environment. It’s a small change which has big effects, and which can help us to always be grateful for the resources we have. I hope that this post has helped you to think differently about the way we see and use water.
If you found this post helpful, please share it to spread the word! I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this, plus any water-saving tips you have, in the comments below 🙂 The Earth says thank you.
As always, thank you very much for reading this post – I’ll see you in the next one!