RECURRENT WATER CRISES IN SOUTH AFRICA AND TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE WATER

What every tourist visiting Cape Town should know:

Level 3 Water Restriction Poster Cape Town

Since 2000 it is evident that if a draught was to strike Cape Town the water supply for the ever- expanding city would become critical. However, no foresight planning was done by the responsible governmental bodies. When the water crisis became obvious in 2016, water shortages and household water usage limitations were implemented. Yet, every day marks one day less of drinking water from the dams that supply Cape Town. Currently, in mid- August 2017, there are only around 70 days of potable water left. The last 10% of the dam are mainly consistent of mud and silt deposits and therefore not a viable water source. The month August still lies in winter and the fact that we only have 70 days of water left in our dams is very worrying.

Water restrictions have now been present for almost two years with worsening levels and increasing costs for residents. However, the situation is getting worse and there is no visible end to this crisis in sight!

WHAT NOW? WHAT CAN WE DO?

What every visitor and tourist coming to Cape Town should know is that statistically tourist use 3- 8 times more water than residents in developing country. So please, when you are visiting Cape Town be aware of this situation. Respect that water is a precious resource. Keep showers, hand washing and water usage to a minimum. In addition, become aware of your indirect water footprint, e.g. 75 litres of water are needed to produce 1 glas of beer, 120 litres of water are needed for 1 glass of wine.

Even if you live in a different part of the world and are not in a draught or water crisis it is important to see water as the sacred and precious element that it is. The more we progress into climate change the more water scares the world will become. In addition, be aware that by buying products from draught- stricken areas you are also contributing to the worsening conditions.

Draughts are just another indication of how Climate Change impacts our everyday life and urges us to change our habits and care for our natural habitat. Being conscious of water usage has to become a new norm and way of living.

 

General household water saving tips:

In the kitchen: a bucket in the sink is an effective way of being more water-wise! Every time my family and I wash off vegetables, fruit or rise off a plate or mug we do that over the container and then we use the recycled water to water the plants in our garden. It is important to keep plants and trees growing because they form part of the water cycle and help the ground water and purification process as the roots hold and maintain top soil.

In the bathroom:  A bucket in the sink can also be used here. Please use biodegradable and organic soaps and cleansers in order to make sure that no harmful chemicals are led into your garden and into the soil as it could also infiltrate into groundwater and will be harmful to the soil, plants and animals. General rules include: not letting the tap run while brushing your teeth or washing your face. When washing your face, it is advisable to rather use a damp cloth.

I find showering with a bucket is such an effective way to save water because I can easily estimate how much water I am using when showering and that really helps me to shorten my shower time. In addition, my family and I use organic, vegan and eco-friendly shampoo and conditioners and therefore we then use the water from the bucket to water our garden. The water from the showering bucket is also great to use as a toilet flush.

Another tip handed out by the municipality is to flush the toilet less regularly and only if it is absolutely necessary. If it is feasible for you, make sure to install dual-flush toilet systems or ones that allow for a shorter flush with less water being wasted.

In the garden: quit the sprinkler system and use the recycled household water because the situation remains critical in Cape Town. Other options are to collect rain or river water to water the garden with a greywater system. There is a high chance that dams will run dry and we will face day zero in the near future so please treat the situation with the seriousness it deserves.

The pool: We need to face the reality that it is a luxury of having a pool while communities are lacking clean drinking water and we only have 70 days of clean water in Cape Town left. If you have a pool make use of pool covers to avoid evaporation as well as just using the current water in the pool without topping it up. If possible, another option is to get a tank to collect rainwater and then water the garden and fill the pool up with the rainwater.

Please quit washing your car! Especially not with a hosepipe. If you have been on a dirt road and REALLY need a clean car at least wash it with a bucket! Try to think “ECO NOT EGO”. Is the appearance of your car really that important?

CONSCIOUS LIFESTYLE TIPS TO SAVE WATER:

We should not support the exploitation of our underground water and aquifers. Aquifers depend on rainfall and all our trees are at threat if we deplete our groundwater. It is an unsustainable practice because ground water is limited as well and we need to think about our future, future generations and the future of this planet. Pumping it out of the ground does not make it any less precious and because owners use it for free they often do not use it sparingly, which is a complete disrespect to its value. Secondly, it is not fair that someone is pumping up and depleting ground water and not paying for it while others are trying hard to save water and are struggling to pay their bills.

In addition, we should not tap into aquifers because using water from aquifers depletes precious water resources which destabilises the future water situation even more. The effects of tapping into groundwater and aquifers is already being experienced in India and parts of the United States. Also, the surrounding landscape and nature might be depended on that water and by exploiting it, this will lead to climatic differences, and potential drastic biosphere changes.

However, there is another solution to our current drought: we need to recycle and re-use the wastewater that we daily pump into our ocean and which leads to ecological disaster and affects marine life. Waste water treatment plants that convert municipal water into drinking water are currently successfully operated in Windhoek and other developing countries.

No more wine. Boycott the wine industry. Some people ignorantly think that by drinking wine they are “saving water” but in reality, wine carries a far greater water footprint that a normal single glass of water does. As mentioned before for 1 glas of wine 120 litres of water are needed. This is because many cubic litres of water are used to maintain and grow wine crops in an arid region like South Africa. Additionally, pesticides used by the wine industry pollute ground water and thus further threaten clean water availability. I will soon be writing a piece on the wine industry in South Africa so if this awakens your interest – keep an eye open for that.

The next topic I am addressing is DIET because our food carries a “water resource footprint” as well as a Carbon footprint. For example, to produce one beef hamburger 2400 litres of water are needed. By the way just because everything has an impact does not mean that it does not matter. It is actually an indication of how much it matters! The art of consciously living is choosing the option that is best for the environment and future interaction between nature and humans.

Do you know that you can save more water by not eating a pound of meat than by NOT showering for 6 months? A glass of milk required approximately 545 litres of water.  A meat eating diet requires 15.142 litres of water per day while a vegan diet only requires around 1.135 litres per day. Fact is the meat and dairy industry need A LOT of water and more water and food is needed than the output of the end product can provide for the consumer.

Another thing, which is important to consider it that the food and the water given to feed animals who are then eaten by richer communities, could be feed and given to those suffering from malnutrition and lack of clean drinking water. Please take this as food for thought, consider and research it further. More information on veganism can be found under the conscious lifestyle tab on my website. There is also a new vegan recipe tab for cooking and baking inspiration regarding the vegan lifestyle.

I am just giving you a peak of the situation at the tip of the iceberg and I mainly just want to encourage you to find out more about the topic. Watch the documentary “Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret”, research on the internet and just evaluate the situation with an outside view. I promise you it will be worth it!

The water conditions will only improve in the Western Cape in case we get 3 – 4 years of good rain and that is not likely to happen. Rather, with Climate Change having an increasing effect our draught periods are predicted to become worse.  We need to consider the increasing and high demand deriving from agriculture, the food and the building industry.  For each single storey house that is built 20.000 litres of water are being used. That is why adapting to an increasingly water scarce country must become the norm and your personal actions should be for long term preparation.

Your choices matter. Spread the word and eco-activism. We are the generation that has to make the difference. Change starts with you!