You keep hearing only water your garden after 6pm and before 6am, no more sprinkler systems, no more car washing, no more baths, shorter showers – and the list goes on. I’m sure many of you are tired of hearing about water restrictions, how you should be saving water or worse still, that you’ve even experienced the dreaded loss of water pressure or no water at all.
Well then this blog post is for you! This is a brief explanation as to why these water restrictions are in place, why you really should care, and why your seemingly small water saving measures do make all the difference.
The Big Issue
In 2012, South Africa was identified by the United Nations as a physically water scarce country, meaning our water supply could no longer meet our water demand. Unlike most other cities around the world, Johannesburg, our city of gold, was built around mining and not an existing water resource. This has meant that as our population has grown and water demand has increased, water has had to be pumped great distances to meet this increasing demand. For Gauteng, this ultimately resulted in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is the largest water transfer scheme in Africa.
With an average of 464mm of rainfall per annum, South Africa’s average yearly rainfall is about half the global average of 860mm. This coupled with the last few years of El Niño conditions, a weather phenomenon that rapidly heats the Pacific Ocean and brings drought to the southern hemisphere, South Africa may still be a few years away from obtaining the amount of rainfall we so desperately need to recharge our dams and rivers.
Across South Africa we have also seen an increasing pressure on our wastewater treatment plants, which are largely functioning over their designed capacities. This has resulted in a lower quality treated sewage effluent being discharged into our rivers, resulting in higher E.coli levels. For those who don’t know, E.coli is an intestinal bacteria, which is normally harmless, however certain strains found in sewage and associated waste water can be very harmful to human health. So, this lower quality treated sewage effluent then lands up in our dams which, due to low dam levels, cannot dilute this effluent sufficiently ultimately making our drinking water more difficult to treat to the high drinking water standards we are used to.
How does this impact you?
In Johannesburg, the Vaal Dam is from where we source our clean drinking water. According to Rand Water, the Vaal Dam is currently at 26% capacity, and DWS have announced that water will have to be released from Sterkfontein Dam to augment the existing supply. This means that Johannesburg’s main water source is under severe strain and without a rapid and consistent increase in rainfall over the next few summer seasons the water levels will remain in a state of crisis. Cape Town is currently under level 3 water restrictions, and Durban is also under similar water stress conditions.
It is thus our responsibility, particularly higher income earners with gardens, pools, dishwashers and washing machines, to utilise our precious water resources wisely. Our collective efforts to save water really will make a difference to the whole country!
What can you do?
Using water wisely means being aware every time you turn on the tap. This is really a situation where ‘Every Drop Counts’ is not an exaggeration! Here are a few easy tips:
- No more sprinklers, try to water your garden with a watering can. It also helps you appreciate how much water you are pouring into your garden. And if you are really dedicated, you can place a bucket in your shower to collect water as you shower and use that to water your garden instead. Alternatively, if you have access to your washing machine and/or dishwasher drain pipe, you can place the end of the pipe into a bucket and collect the rinse water from each cycle and use that to water your garden.
- Also remember to only water your garden at night. When you water during the day much of the water you spray onto your garden and soil evaporates before it is able to infiltrate into the soil and feed your plants.
- Buy a bubble-wrap cover for your pool – this is a relatively cost effective solution to prevent evaporation of water from your pool.
- Consider installing a JoJo tank to collect rainwater from your roof, and use that water to water your garden and top up your pool.
- Place a brick or 1 litre plastic bottle filled with water into your toilet cistern, reducing the amount of water filling up the cistern and thus reducing the amount of water you flush away.
- Try to avoid bathing, and if you have small children and babies, rather purchase a baby bath tub to reduce the amount of water you would have used to fill the bath.
- Avoid using the washing machine or dishwasher unless you have a full load.
- Don’t wash dishes under running water, rather fill the sink and then wash all your dishes.
- Don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth and washing your hands.
- Keep those showers under 5 minutes.
- Make the switch to earth friendly products, the fewer non-biodegradable chemicals we put into our waste water the fewer chemicals our waste water treatment plants have to try and remove, which also means fewer chemicals in our rivers and dams.
Suzelle DIY has a few more helpful tips-
Print out this ‘how to’ guide and stick it on your fridge as a reminder to save water!
For more information about being water wise, follow this link: http://www.waterwise.co.za/site/home.html