Article courtesy of Samantha Derham | September 25, 2014 | News24 | Shared as educational material
Living in an urban environment, which most people reading this do, we have had the luxury of not really thinking of where water comes from further than we turn on the tap and it’s there. Most people have heard that South Africa is a water stressed country, but have you experienced that? Driving through the streets of Johannesburg it is not uncommon to see thousands of litres of water being used casually to ‘sweep’ a dirty drive-way.
Go a few hours without water and we very quickly start to realise how much we rely on water for so many things. After a few days or weeks without access to water from the turn of a tap, if this convenience is all you have known, and the feelings of anger and despair at how useless our government is quickly dominate. But South Africa really is a water stressed country, and it was only a matter of time before demand would outweigh supply, and we should prepare ourselves for this happening again.
Did you know that about half of the people living in South Africa still do not have access to tap water? Did you know that the total amount of water in our rivers and dams is barely enough to meet our growing demand for water, and we are on the brink of that equation being in the negative? It’s not spoken of nearly enough in the media, from our government, from where ever it is needed to be spoken about, but South Africa, is well and truly on the brink of a water crisis.
How much water did you use to wash the dishes last night? And brush your teeth this morning? How would you know? Did you measure it? Did you think about trying to use as little as possible? Most people don’t. First of all measuring it is not exactly easy, but water is actually still very cheap – compared to the amount that we are using, compared to the price of electricity, the amount on our bills at the end of the month is probably not enough for justify making the effort to reduce our water use.
But maybe, just maybe, the water supply issues that Johannesburg experienced over the past few weeks is enough to make us start thinking again about our water use. Here are some tips to reduce our water use around the home:
– Go to builders warehouse, or any other store that sells plumbing supplies, and buy a ‘low-flow’ shower head. You can get them for between R200 and R400 and they do not mean that your showering experience will be any less enjoyable, instead this clever piece of plumbing adds air to your shower water, often improving the showing experience. And not only will this save you water, but it will also save electricity from using less hot water, and that is money you will notice!
– If when you open any of the taps around your home the water comes out transparent, then while you are at your favourite plumbing supplier, ask for a low flow “faucet aerator”. Or the little thing that you screw onto the part of your tap where the water comes out that performs a similar function as the low flow shower head. You will need a set of spanners, or a pair of pliers will do, to remove the existing faucet filter, and add the new super-hero water saving ones you just bought! Your water will now come out of the tap full of little bubbles and appear more white in colour – it will still be transparent once inside the required container.
– If any of your taps are dripping, also buy some ‘washers’ and replace these on your dripping taps – they are usually the cause of a dripping tap, and are much easier to replace than you think, but you have to turn your water off at the mains to do this job, or ask if any of your friends can help you with this. A dripping tap can waste as much as 20,000 litres in one year!
– Does your toilet use more water to flush than it really needs to? If yes there are two things you can do. 1) you can put a 1 or 2 litre coke bottle filled with water into the cistern (or more if you have a really large cistern). Not a brick because little bits might come off the brick and cause your toilet to leak – completely counterproductive. 2) bend the metal rod supporting the floating ball further down so that it stops filling with less water – to do this you will need to take the ball and arm out to bend it, and unscrew the ball from the arm, otherwise you might break the ball off or the flushing mechanism.
– The next steps to becoming a water saving house rest in changing the behaviour of the people using water:
o Only run water that you need, for brushing your teeth, washing your hands, etc
o Please note that no harm will come to anyone who uses your home toilet if it isn’t flushed after every pee and nose blowing.
o If you are running water to wash the dishes, don’t wait for the water to get hot before putting in the plug, and then running cold water to get it to the right temperature. Be aware of how much cold water you add later and try and use this much when you first turn the hot tap on.
o Don’t wash vegetables under running water – wash them in a bowl of water. Also, by letting them soak in a bowl of water first will result in a better wash.
o I know it can be a pain, but wherever you need to run water for any reason, but a bowl or bucket under it so that you can use that water to water some of your plants, or for anything else you need water for.
o Watering your garden between 8am and 4pm is only useful if you like to gift the water you have to pay for to the clouds.
– Lastly, be aware that water is used in everything, to grow food obviously, but also make every single product you buy, clothes, furniture, technology, paper. Everything. And the more you waste, the more water you are wasting. Where possible, try and find out about how much water is used to make the products, being a responsible consumer will go a long way to reducing your indirect impact on water. Raising meat uses thousands of litres more than raising vegetables, so maybe consider joining the Meatless Monday movement, or just be aware to waste less meat. The Waterfootprint website gives a lot more information on water usage and has a handy calculator so you can calculate how much water you really use.
Less than 1% of the world’s water is fresh water, life is impossible without it, and we are still a long way from an economically viable way of turning salt water into drinking water. With a rapidly expanding population, and with it the demand on water, it is more important than ever to be aware of our water usage, not just for the future generations, but for your very own lifetime.