Human impact is altering weather patterns and bringing water-scarce Western Cape full circle. First it was Knysna Fires, now it’s the Cape Peninsula drought. Are you concerned about your water consumption? Maybe you’re suffering level six water restrictions like 4,3 million others in the Mother City. Our extreme hacks and serious suggestions can help keep hope afloat. Remember: you are not alone and you are not a victim.
You ARE living through a challenging time, and that calls for resilience and innovation. If it doesn’t rain soon, Cape Town’s restrictions are going to seem like a luxury and Main Road might have to be renamed “Fury Road”. “Day Zero” pegged at 11 May 2018 at the time of publishing and subject to change, is when the water will be switched off and every person allotted a maximum of just 25 liters of municipal water (for everything) per day. Quite apart from developing the patience that makes queuing for rations with 200 000 other people at a time possible, residents will be forced to learn how to drastically save more and use less water. They’re not the same thing, you see.
To harmonize the hum of dry alarm that makes the usual lists completely redundant, we asked around and compiled a list of extreme water hacks to help you cope. As the climate becomes increasingly unpredictable, we encourage everyone to try these, whether it’s in Cape Town or it’s pouring down. Weather patterns and water supply are no longer guaranteed; your needing water to survive and thrive very much IS.
Use less water
In the bathroom
- Use germ-killing hand sanitiser to clean your hands.
- If you must wash your hands with water – actually, you must – use liquid hand-soap to make it easier to lather without water. That way you only use water to rinse.
- Use biodegradable soaps – they are easier on the greywater you’re going to repurpose and they rinse off more quickly, too.
- Skip body washes with a few, well-placed, biodegradable wet wipes (the other ones poison the earth).
- Ditch the shower. Wash with a basin and a bakkie (decanter). A good ratio is 1 kettle hot and 2 cold depending on your comfort requirements. The least we’ve used for the entire body, including long hair, is 3 liters. 5 liters is more comfortable. You can lather up the same way you would with the liquid hand-soap.
- If you must shower, stand in a big basin. This will catch the water while it warms up and the water you use. Just remember, depending on the water pressure, that’s 15 liters per minute…! and re-use the grey water for flushing and car washing.
In the kitchen.
- Wash your dishes in one go (not lots of little ones. Saves eco-dishwashing liquid, too)
- Wash dishes in a tub (not under running water)
- Re-purpose all water used for cooking and rinsing perishables into pot plants/garden. Must use non-toxic cleaner, though.
- Use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda as cleaning products. They’re greywater friendly
- Don’t pour fat from frying pans etc down the drain – they’ll clog it.
In the toilet. Oh wait.
- No flush toilets from Day Zero. Practise these in the meanwhile:
- Water your plants with wee, they love it.
TIP: spread it out because, although it’s sterile, it smells when concentrated. You don’t want to know.
- Buy a no-flush loo or build a compost toilet. The organic farmers can advise.
- If you can’t afford a readymade water-free loo – or don’t know anyone to build you a long-drop out back. Just kidding. Or maybe not – improvise with a DIY no-flush loo. A pool noodle around the rim of a bucket lined with an airtight lid and the correct enzymes to control bacteria. Remove the noodle when finished and close the bucket for hygiene. Empty it regularly with someone producing humanure. Yes, you read right.
Save more water
- Wear hardy trousers and shorts twice or even thrice (for exercise if they’re soiled)
TIP: hand wash single-wear items like underwear.
- Swim in oceans and rivers more to stay cleaner for longer without washing. Deodorant also helps.
- Stockpile drinking water (from retail suppliers, not from the municipality – you can be fined) and keep it far away from heat or the sun. Remember to account for your pets, too!
- Get large, 5L jerry cans with a tap for drinking water. If you can’t afford metal, get the plastic ones without BPAs and all the other acronyms.
- If you’re unusually sensitive to chemicals, it’s worth storing your drinking water in glass decanters with taps or bottles with lids. Re-used whiskey and wine bottles work wonders. Just rinse them out properly! If you get plastic ones, turn them into eco-bricks when they’re empty.
- Drink less coffee, eat fewer sugary drinks and go slow on the salty snacks. They all make you thirstier than normal.
What about the animals?
- Empty old water in pet bowls onto your plants/into your toilet cistern.
- Stockpile drinking water for homeless animals. Animal relief groups and shelters will need support. Thank you for this thoughtful post, Herman!
Catch and keep rainwater.
Lots of water simply runs over the surface of the ground and down drains and is lost forever.
- You can do so much with harvested rainwater – water your veggie garden, clean your clothes and linen, wash your body, hair and car, use in cooking and cleaning.
- It can be active (store in a tank) or passive (redirect to garden); simple (putting a big bucket on the balcony or a funnel in the garden) or advanced (redirecting your gutter water to a tank or empty pool).
TIP: Keep your gutters clean and lids on to avoid blockage and bacteria
WARNING: Don’t drink, cook with or rinse fresh produce using rainwater without checking and treating it properly. Otherwise, cholera, anyone?
Install a greywater system.
A good greywater system is an investment, not an expense, for you as well as for mother nature.
- Installing a long-term solution lets you re-use your household’s water waste.
- And even if you don’t treat and repurpose the water for re-use inside, you can keep your garden lush and help replenish the water table outside.
- Swales can capture and direct rainwater to create a lush wetland in your garden, no hose required.
Help your neighbours.
If you are curious about others’ hacks, or if it comes to queues (Cape Town), you are not alone.
- Share knowledge and work together.
- Check with your community and see who needs help.
- Making new friends through generosity and consideration goes a long way to creating a sense of goodwill and positivity at a challenging time and this applies outside of #thinkwater crises too.
- You never know, Jo, there might be a day when you can’t make it to the pickup point.
Good to get going? If you’re in Cape Town, keep your eye on the city’s progress here and get water updates here. Good news, for now, is that the drought levy (water tax) is probably going to be shelved. Thanks for that, Pat. Now, how about finishing those desalination plants so that we don’t suck the aquifers dry?