Water saving tips

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

With the country in the midst of a severe drought, the time to save every drop of water has arrived. Here’s how you can conserve water.

Residents living on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal received a rude awakening over the weekend when salt water started to come out of their taps. People understandably panicked and there was a mad rush to buy bottled water, which, given the increased demand quickly ran out.

The problem, according to a report on the South Coast Herald's webpage, started when levels in the Bhobhoyi dam, which supplies water to most areas along the urban and rural strip of the Hibiscus Coast dropped to its lowest level ever due to the on-going drought. The municipality was forced to pump water from the river, however because of the lack of rain, salty water from the Umzimkulu estuary had moved nearly 10km upstream and had entered the Bhoboyi treatment works.

In another report on the newspaper's webpage, a sample of the drinking water which was tested by an independent laboratory was found to have 44 parts of sea water to 56 parts of fresh water. To put this into perspective, the World Heath Organisation (WHO) laid down guidelines for drinking water in 1996. According to these guidelines, there is a limit to the amount of Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS, permitted in drinking water. The organisation deems a reading of 1200 to be ‘unacceptable’ and according to the laboratory analysis, the TDS of much of the South Coast's tap water is currently 15400 ppm. This exceeds the maximum allowed by the WHO by a factor of about 13.

To say that those affected by this catastrophe are frightened is an understatement. People are also angry, but, while there probably are certain failures on the municipality's part, it's clearly evident that the water wouldn't have been affected had the area had experienced good rains.

South Africa is caught up in one of the worst droughts in living memory and if the experts are to be believed, the situation is not going to improve much before the autumn of 2016. The time to save every drop of water you can has arrived.

Here are some water saving tips:

  • Put a brick or other cistern displacement device in the toilet cistern and only flush when absolutely necessary.
  • It's well known that showers use a lot less water than bathing, but this doesn't mean that you should hang about in a shower for too long. A eight minute shower could use up to 65 litres of water.
  • Turn off the tap when brushing teeth - this could save 6 litres of water a minute being wasted.
  • Always ensure that washing machines and dishwashers are loaded to capacity before use.
  • Use grey water (water from washing machines, dishwashers, baths and showers) to water the garden.
  • Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe to water the garden and mulch your plants with bark chippings or compost will help reduce evaporation. Only water in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Fix dripping taps.
  • Buy water-efficient appliances. These include dishwashers and washing machines. Install water-efficient shower heads and if you are renovating a bathroom consider installing water-oefficient toilets.
  • Don't run a tap in order to get cooler water to drink - rather keep a jug of water in the fridge.
  • Top up swimming pools later in the day or at night.
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