How to save water during water restrictions

By Jessica Anne Wood

As the country faces the worst drought in decades, consumers are being asked to conserve water, with many municipalities having issued water restrictions as parts of the country experience water shortages.

“Water is a vital commodity that we require in order to survive. Without water the environment we live in could not survive, so it is imperative that the necessary precautions are taken to ensure that this essential resource is not used carelessly,” stressed Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Cape Town is currently experiencing level 2 water restrictions. The City of Cape Town emphasised: “Please note that more stringent restrictions are applicable during water restrictions and these override any restrictions listed in the Water By-law. For example, watering times are currently before 09:00 or after 16:00 (level 2 restrictions) instead of before 10:00 or after 16:00 (level 1 restrictions – normally applicable).”

There are a number of ways that you can reduce your water usage around the home, which can also help in lowering your monthly water bill.

When using taps, it is important to make sure that they are closed securely to ensure that there is no unnecessary dripping. “A tap dripping at one drip per second will waste as much as thirty litres of water in one day. This equates to around 10 000 litres of water wasted over a period on a year, simply from one single dripping tap,” highlighted RE/MAX.

The City of Cape Town concurred, adding: “Replace tap washers regularly and fit tap aerators to restrict and spread the flow. This saves water yet feels like you are using the same amount of water.”

Another way to save water is to turn taps off when you are brushing your teeth. According to RE/MAX, this can save about 20 litres of water a month. “A mug of water can be used to rinse the toothbrush after use.”

In the bathroom
There are a number of other ways to save water in the bathroom. For example, taking a shower can use a lot less water than taking a bath, provided that the shower is less than five minutes long, revealed RE/MAX.

However, if you do not have access to a shower, having a shallow bath and then re-using the water in the garden is another water saving option.

The City of Cape Town noted: “A half-filled bath uses about 113 litres, a 5-minute shower uses about 56 litres. Shower rather than bath, if you have to bath make it a shallow one or share it.”

By installing a water-saving shower head, you can also water. Furthermore, Goslett and the City of Cape Town agree that when showering, you can save water by turning it off when you are soaping to shaving, and not having the water run at full force.

If you choose to shave at the basin, rather than having the water running, put the plug in and have a little water in the basin to rinse your razor. “This saves up to 45 litres per month,” said the City of Cape Town.

It is important to note that leaking taps are not the only problem, leaking toilets also waste water. “Installing a water-saving toilet is an option, but for those who don’t wish to spend money on the outlay, adding a brick or sealed container of sand to the cistern will reduce the amount of water used during each flush. A few drops of food colouring in the cistern will help to determine if any water is leaking from the toilet. If the colour seeps into the bowl, the system is leaking and should be fixed without delay,” added RE/MAX.

In the kitchen
Appliances in the kitchen can use a lot of water. One way to help cut down on unnecessary or excess water use would be to use things such as dishwashers and washing machines only when they are full.

When rinsing dishes, Goslett advised filling a basin with water and rinsing the items there, rather than rinsing under running water. Once you are finished with the dishes, you can then use this water in the garden.

“When waiting for dishwater to heat up, run the tap into bottles to use as drinking water. By keeping bottles of drinking water in the fridge there is no need to let lukewarm water be wasted when waiting for the tap water to cool,” said Goslett.

The City of Cape Town added: “Thaw frozen foods in the fridge, sunlight or microwave rather than placing them under running water.”

In the garden
“Homeowners in South Africa consume an estimated 30% to 50% of water on watering and maintaining their gardens, so it seems that this is the most significant area for water to be saved,” said Goslett.

There are a number of ways that you can save water in the garden. As already stated, you can use the water from bathing or showering, and from rinsing dishes to water your garden. To make recycling the water around your home easier, there are “professional greywater recycling systems are also available for purchase,” highlighted the City of Cape Town.

The price of professional greywater systems vary, however, advertises a range of options from R4 909 to R91 510.

According to RE/MAX, having a water-wise garden can still be beautiful, and has the added benefit of saving money on water costs. There are a number of ways that you can achieve a water-wise garden.

First of all, choosing the right plants can help with water saving. “As a general rule, only indigenous plants should be used as they consume very little water and require minimal maintenance,” explained Goslett.

Adding mulch to your garden beds help the soil to retain moisture, which therefore reduces the need for water in the garden.

“Water your garden before 09:00 or after 16:00 (or even later on hot summer days). Avoid watering during windy periods and only water your garden when necessary,” advised the City of Cape Town.

To save water on your lawn, the City of Cape Town suggested using a mulching lawn mower that allows clippings to be finely cut and blown back into the lawn. It added: “Don’t mow lawns below four centimetres in length, as this reduces root depth and lawns are more likely to burn in summer.”

Furthermore, the City of Cape Town noted: Check and maintain your irrigation system regularly, to ensure no water is running to waste, or that paved areas are being watered.

“Adjust your irrigation system for the season and switch it off during rainy weather - even if it is borehole or wellpoint water.
“Watering the garden less frequently, but deeper (for longer) encourages a deeper root system, which results in stronger plants. This practice can make water-wise plants out of most established plants."

Additional tips
Government has also released a number of tips for how consumers can save on water. These include a number of those already mentioned, as well as the below.

  • Do not over-fill or excessively backwash your swimming pool.
  • Use a bucket rather than a hose to wash your car. If you have to use a hose, use a sprayer that can be turned off in-between spraying the car. Using a garden hose could use as much as 30 litres of water per minute.
  • Do not pour paint and chemicals down the drain.
  • Kettles should not be filled to the brim but with just enough water for your needs. This will reduce your electricity bill too.
  • Do not overfill containers like cooking pots, as this may result in using more energy to heat the water.

“With soaring temperatures and the lack of water currently being experienced, becoming water-wise is essential. It is not just about saving an important resource, but also about sustainability and of course saving money with today’s higher cost of living,” stressed Goslett. 
For more information on the water restrictions in Cape Town, click here.

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