South Africa has experienced a prolonged period of lower-than-normal rainfall over the last year which has aggravated the country’s drought situation to disaster status in certain provinces. SA faces a seemingly insurmountable challenge of meeting water demand in the near future. A combination of typically low-levels of highly variable rainfall – made worse by climate change and global warming – limited underground aquifers, aging infrastructure and a significant dependence on neighbouring nations for water transfer has resulted in water shortages across the nation.
The worst affected areas are Kwazulu-Natal and the Freestate, as well as southern parts of Mpumalanga, some parts of Limpopo, the North West and Northern Cape provinces. 18% of the national population is currently affected in various degrees of severity – across all domestic, agricultural and industrial sectors. Drought relief interventions and water restrictions are being implemented in an attempt to reduce water consumption and increase water provision.
The Government seeks to improve the supply of water as well as restore old infrastructure and construct new public water supply schemes with both short term and long term goals set to relieve the water shortage crisis.
In acknowledgment President Jacob Zuma recently stated that “South Africa is rapidly growing into a water-scarce country.” Understandably this has sparked apprehension and fear amongst South Africans with there being no substitute for this life-giving resource.
South Africans have been warned to use water responsibly and sparingly, and to reduce water consumption as much as possible. Whether you’re a simple or serious saver, here are some budget and eco- friendly tips and tricks to help reduce water usage:
Be proactive by monitoring your water use – regularly check your water meter. You can check for hidden leaks by monitoring the meter before and after an hour period where no water has been used. The meter should read the same.
Fill the kettle to the level needed. This will not only save water but reduce electricity costs.
Use a plugged sink to rinse fruit and vegetables or to defrost meat instead of running them under water. The water used can then be repurposed to water your garden or even flush your toilet.
When washing dishes use less dishwashing liquid as this will reduce the amount of water needed to rinse. If you have a dishwasher only turn it on once it’s completely full.
Reduce how often you wash towels and linen as these use a significant amount of water. As a rule of thumb when doing laundry always match the load with the water volume.
Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, shaving or soaping your hands. Once you’re finished tightly close the tap – one drop of water a second wastes an estimated 10220L of water a year.
Aerators and flow-reducing valves conserve water and reduce energy costs by limiting the water through the faucet. These can be attached to taps or showerheads with little effort.
Insulate hot water pipes to reduce the time and water wasted waiting for the water to heat up. A geyser blanket for insulation is also a good investment.
Take shorter showers, and shower instead of bath. If you prefer to bath use less water. The water used to bath can then be repurposed to water your garden.
Flush the toilet only when necessary. An average of 9-11L of water is used per flush. Installing a dual-flush mechanism is a great way to reduce water usage.
Make sure that the toilet handle is in the upward position otherwise the water will continue to run, and ensure that the toilet cistern is not filling after every flush.
Water your garden at the coolest part of the day with a handheld hose, preferably in the morning before 6AM as a large amount of water is lost to heat and wind. Watering in the evening may invite fungus and mildew into your flower beds.
Group and water plants according to their water requirements. A substantial amount of water can be saved by planting only indigenous water-wise plants. Most South African plants are naturally drought-hardy, whereas exotic are water- and space-guzzlers.
It’s tempting to over-water your garden in an attempt to save what’s dry and dying. Not only is this completely unsupportive to the livelihood of your plants but a shocking 30L of water is wasted per minute of overwatering. Water deeply and less frequently.
Wash your car with a bucket and sponge instead of the hose. When using a hand-held hosepipe ensure that it has a self-closing nozzle or that you turn it off when not in use.
Even small adjustments can result in a big change! Together South Africans can make a significant difference in responsibly using and conserving water!