Dear people of Cape Town, the deep seated ache you feel for rain right now is a constant longing and ever present ache for those of us who live off rainwater. We’ve been living solely on rainwater for the last 10 years, so being keenly aware of water usage has become second nature for my children, as it was for me growing up on a farm running purely on rainwater. When water is not an infinite resource that pours from a tap, but rather a precious lifeline that changes with the seasons, the darkening of the sky, the bleak days of drought and the ecstatic first sounds of raindrops hitting the roof as it runs into your rainwater tanks, it becomes a thread that runs deep in your veins.
So here are some of our water saving ways that form a natural part of everyday life:
1) Only wash dirty clothes – this is a biggie and I speak from the privileged position of having a washing machine. Wear clothes until they are truly dirty enough to go in the machine, the habit of wearing something once and then just chucking it in the laundry basket without first CHECKING if it actually warrants a wash is foreign to us. The same goes for towels and bedding which use a lot of water, don’t just wash them because you always wash on a Monday, ask yourself if they actually need a wash? And of course, only use the washing machine when it is ABSOLUTELY FULL. As a family of four we do two loads of washing a week to give you an idea….
2) Use biodegradable cleaning products – that way your used water can have a second use, the term GREYWATER has luckily become a well known concept. We have all the water from our bathroom going to the veggie garden through a filter of reeds and the kitchen water goes to a banana circle because, well, bananas love water. There are many clever DIY ways of doing this or get in a company to help you. Here are some great local, biodegradable cleaning products… Probac, Naturally Good, the Clean Shop, Greenman.
3) Eat meat as a treat – your water saving ways can go beyond just the changes you make in your home habits, they can also include your consumer choices in the shops. Meat production uses far more agricultural water than vegetables and grains do. So if you are a meat eater why not have it as a treat, as it used to be, and not every night. Or go for Green Monday or Meat Free Monday, just having meat one less day a week will already have a sizable impact. And if you do buy meat, go for something like Karoo Choice where good veld management is a priority, protecting the river catchments.
4) Garden water wise – nothing grates a rainwater bunny like myself more than seeing gardens being watered in the heat of day when most of it is evaporating, plus it burns the leaves of the plants! Obviously if you have radical water restrictions you can’t water your garden (or if you are like my 7 year old you would be aghast at the fact that anyone could even ever water their lawn, we of course never can and never do) but it’s pretty obvious that it’s far better to water your garden in the cool hours of the day early morning and evening when it’s not all going to evaporate. Other simple water wise ways are to heavily mulch your garden beds to lock in the moisture, plant plants that are indigenous to your area and therefore adapted to the climate and the rainfall and remove any thirsty exotics especially if they are invasive.
5) Get a rainwater tank – it’s life changing, your relationship with water will never be the same as your heart will soar every time it rains and you know you are storing water for drier times. It just makes so much sense, and boy do I wish that every new house built in this country had a mandatory rain tank. They come in all shapes and sizes now to suit all rural and urban needs, it’s a capital outlay for sure but the rewards are very long lived!
6) Pools are a luxury – and should be treated as such. Being on rainwater we of course don’t have one, so I don’t have many real life tips around this, but perhaps there are basic responsibilities when it comes to pools, like re-using the water for the garden when you backwash and getting a cover to prevent evaporation?
7) Be truly water conscious – being aware of all our daily interactions with water needs to become second nature for all of us, it just has to. We live in South Africa, enough said. The only time a tap should be left running is when there is a plug in to catch the water that can be used for multiple purposes whether it’s washing dishes or veggies or two children in a shallow bath and then that water gets used again when it goes out to the garden. Every time we use water we feel aware of its value, only fill the kettle for how much tea you will drink, only flush the loo if you have to, only use the dishwasher when its full to capacity. Water saving ways need to run in our veins, it’s a matter of survival.
As our climates change and flux due to man made activities and dry places become drier and wet places wetter, we too need to change our ways and our relationship to water, because fresh, delicious, abundant water is not a given, not in any way, but rather a treasured resource to be treated with the utmost respect and care.
#VoteWithYourWallet and support businesses that have water saving measures in place, find them here.