#WaterScarcity: Living the water-less life during National Water Week

2018-03-19 06:30
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Gabi Zietsman

Cape Town - Day Zero has been pushed to 2019 and Cape Town's residents and visitors are encouraged to continue implementing water-saving methods.

Being conscious of our water consumption on a daily basis and ensuring that water saving becomes a habit should not only be a concern of residents and visitors to the Mother City, but also to the rest of South Africa and the world as many towns, cities and countries face drastic climate changes and resultant water shortages.

SEE: Cape Water Update: Water consumption reduced by 60% in 3 years, no Day Zero in 2018

National Water Week runs from 18-24 March under the theme "Access to safe water by 2030 – possible through nature". This important week coincides with World Water Day on 22 March, and is dedicated to creating awareness on how solutions already found in nature can be used to reduce floods, drought and water pollution.

According to the Department of Water and Sanitation, Water Week focuses on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. "It also creates an opportunity to learn more about water related issues and to also take action to make a difference," adds the department.

There's no time like now for all South Africans to continue practicing water saving measures throughout the country and encouraging tourists to do the same.

SEE: #WaterScarcity: Best water-wise places to stay across SA

In its latest water file update, the World Wildlife Fund South Africa says that most Capetonians have done their part to keep Day Zero at bay, but now the focus is on saving water while there is water to save.

This week’s water file focuses on dry options that have worked well to reduce water consumption during the drought. Here are some useful tips to practice to save water.

Dry options to reduce water consumption

How do I stay clean without using too much water?

New bathing and washing habits are required to adapt to the "new normal"It’s inspiring to see how efficient and innovative we have become within a short space of time.

To keep our bodies clean, we should continue to take occasional on/off showers and alternate this with having a sponge bath or splash bath. You can also use a squeezy bottle or spray for a “spritz shower” to make an extreme water saving. Alternatively, you could share a small amount of bath water with your family members, as well as using it to wash your underwear and socks. Each family member can take turns choosing their preferred bathing order. Make it a family affair!

SEE: This whole family of 4 + their 3 pets only use 49 Litres of water for the day! Here’s how…

You can also prepare a combo spray of shower gel and water to lather your body before even switching the tap on to rinse. You can do the same for hand washing especially if your skin is sensitive to the waterless hand cleansing products available.

For completely waterless body cleaning, an innovative home-grown dry hygiene solution is the DryBath® cleaning gel, invented by a young South African entrepreneur called Ludwick Marishane. The gel can be used to remove dirt and full body odour in under five minutes.

How do I keep my clothes fresh?

Staying nifty with minimal effort is totally possible. Refresh and re-wear is the new wash and wear. Air drying clothes after wearing them reduces laundry loads and saves water. Hanging directly after wearing also avoids crumples and creases, which also means less ironing. Less frequent washing and ironing also help preserve the quality of school uniforms, delicate fabrics and your favourite items.

One way to freshen clothes is to use baking soda which is available at any supermarket. You do this by putting dirty clothes into a bag with half a cup of baking soda, shaking it around a bit and then leaving for 10 minutes before dusting your clothes off. Voila, your clothes will smell fresher. There are many other cheap ways and substitutes for baking soda – such as lemon juice and vinegar – that can be used to deodorise and spray clothes.

How can I cut back on the amount of laundry we have?

With washing machines using between 50 and 150 litres per load, we need to reconsider and reduce our laundry loads. For example, your favourite denim items don’t need to be washed every week.

Once your personal washing needs are reduced, combine the things that need washing with friends or family to create a combined wash so that you run a full machine less frequently.

Hanging bed linen outside once a week also helps to freshen it up and shake out accumulated dust, hair and skin cells without adding to the washing load. Wash just your pillow case and air dry the rest.

MUST-SEE: These 9 gadgets show campers are winning at the #WaterCrisis

If you have a washing machine or use a laundromat service, do also take time to get to know your options, such as finding the cycle which uses the least water (it might not always be the eco-cycle in some models) and know how to control the functions. For example, you can skip the default rinse cycle after every wash and shoot straight to the spin cycle to save water.

For heavily soiled items, such as children’s clothes, consider soaking in a pre-mix of soap powder and water before adding to the washing machine. When buying new items, choose easy care fabrics and colours less likely to show up dirt.

What about the washing up in the kitchen?

It is possible to use zero litres of water for household cleaning with waterless and eco cleaning products. Many homeowners are water-shedding by using everyday food products such as vinegar and lemon juice to clean kitchen surfaces and deodorise.

Re-using glasses, mugs and kitchen utensils as well as reducing the amount of clean dishes used saves water. Also, with fewer utensils used in food prep, there’s less dishwashing which also saves time. You can also use less soap and detergent to save on rinsing water (this also applies to laundry).

With the washing of dishes taking up to nine litres of our precious daily allocation of drinking water, we need a change in our dishwashing culture. Let’s start with scraping and wiping off plates before washing. A small amount of boiling water can be used to loosen and soften food stuck on plates, and this water can be re-used and re-poured onto other dishes that also need to soak.

Keep moving such water between dishes that need to soak, and be sure to transfer it to a bucket to use for future flushing. Do the same with any sink and rinsing water. You can also create a dishwashing soap-water mixture to spray and wipe dishes instead of washing and rinsing them separately. We also need to group our dishes together to aim for one sink wash per day or one dishwasher load a day (on eco-cycle).

ALSO SEE: #WaterCrisis: Why nature reserves are important for our water systems

How can I use less water when cooking?

Home-cooked meals are the way to go because they are healthier, cheaper and consume less water than eating out. The best water-saving methods with home cooking are to make one-pot or open-pan meals rather than cooking in multiple pots at a time.

This way you still get your “buffet-style” dinners but with using less water and fewer cooking utensils resulting in less washing afterwards. Cooking in bulk and freezing the food is also worth considering.

Braais are always the perfect excuse to bring everyone together but, for quieter days, grills and slow cookers make nutritious meals with less water.

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: New water tool tracks usage by suburbs in Cape Town

How do I ensure the best toilet hygiene?

The biggest realisation from this drought is that we can no longer afford to flush away perfectly good drinking water with every pee. However, with more efficient water saving in our daily lives, greywater also becomes less available for re-using to flush.

We need to realise that we can save and re-use every drop that we use elsewhere. So shower water can be used to mop, then to flush. Dish-washing water can be used to wash, then to flush.

We should also catch the water from rinsing our pasta and rice and any veggie cooking water too.

SEE: #CapeWaterCrisis: How will I flush my toilet after 'Day Zero'?

We could explore a couple of solutions; one is opting for longer-term dry sanitation options such as composting toilets and similar products. Alternatively, you can invest in microbial flushing products to reduce the number of flushes as well as reduce odour (e.g. Wee Pong). Such products are relatively easy to find with a range of prices to suit your needs.

Lastly, bleach has always been trusted for household cleaning and eliminating odours. Some people have taken to using their dying gardens as urinals.

Can you suggest anything for keeping my car clean?

You can still keep your car clean without making a splash. Use reliable waterless car care products or greywater to wash your car at home.

SEE: #WaterScarcity: Cape Town has a new water mascot and thankfully it's nothing like Splash!

Tell me more about all the uses there are for grey water…

No water should leave our homes after a single use, and we can often also give our greywater a second or third life too. We all need to change our relationship with greywater if we haven’t already. Greywater affords us mopping of floors, watering plants, cleaning cars and lastly flushing of loos.

Day Zero prep – This week's bucket list:

  • Keep up the "Conservation Conversation" – now is not the time to get complacent. Could your workplace be doing more? What is your school doing to save water? Are you still irrigating sports fields – talk to your school about converting to a sand court
  • Does any of your rainwater harvesting, borehole or other systems/ infrastructure need maintenance? If not, does your neighbour need a hand? Can they afford an upgrade?
  • Go beyond your 90-second shower and challenge yourself with a dry bath, a dirty car and a dry lawn.
 (Source: WWF South Africa)