The International Blue Drop Certification Programme ranked South Africa’s tap water as the third best in the World. Apparently South Africa is also one of only 12 countries in the World with tap water that is safe to drink. Not sure that I believe this statistic, but the statistic should ring alarm bells regarding how precious water is. Our constitution prescribes water as a basic human right and for most urban South Africans water is just the turn of a tap away. Is this convenience why we have not yet internalized the message that water is a scarce resource and that every drop counts?
Wise Water Use! Do a Water Audit.
Our growing population, the increasing cost of energy required to provide safe drinking water and growing pollution of our rivers means that clean water is a critical resource. More regulation and higher tariffs are inevitable as the authorities try to force efficiency measures. Don’t wait for the next drought or higher tariffs! Whether in businesses, industry or at home we would be wise to become as water efficient and water independent as possible and stop activities that pollute our catchments.
1. Find your water meter and monitor it when all water taps are switched off to check that you do not have water leaks. Check for water leaks: dripping taps, toilets, irrigation systems, etc and signs of damp such as unexpectedly lush green patches outside and signs of damp in walls.
2. Audit your water usage. You can only manage what you can measure. Without understanding what processes and activities use water and how much they use you will not be able to manage and reduce your water consumption. Audit your water use and costs in three ways:
2.1 Record your meter readings on a daily basis to get an indication of your baseline use of water for cooking, cleaning, washing, flushing the toilet etc. Compare these readings with days when you use more water for the garden, washing the car, filling the pool etc .
2.2 For a more precise water audit, you will need to fill in a water audit sheet which measures water use based on how long the shower is used, or how many times per day you flush the toilet, how often the washing machine is run etc. To get an idea of where homes use water, a typical mid to high income household has the following breakdown of water use in the home: cooking, washing dishes and drinking 14%, washing machine 17%, baths and showers 32%, toilets 37%. Of the total water used on properties with gardens, 46% is typically used in the garden. (Smart Living Handbook May 2011, pg 111) Click here for actual examples of a home water audit.
2.3 Understand your water account and the tariff structure. Cape Town households get 6000 kilolitres of free water per month. Thereafter water is charged in a stepped tariff structure. Note that the waste water (sewage) fee that you pay is linked directly to the amount of water you use. So by reducing your water consumption you get the double benefit of reduced water and reduced sewage fees. For the latest Water Tariffs in your City go to their tariff page on their website. By law the tariffs need to be published.
3. Look at the options you have to collect rain water or groundwater. A return on investment calculation will give you a good indication of how the savings on water tariffs can offset or at least subsidize the cost of infrastructure such as a rain tank, well point, borehole, dam etc. Collecting rain or ground water can provide you with a level of independence during times of water shortages. (Note that in some municipalities & the City of Cape Town you are required to register boreholes and wellpoints. )
4. Re use your grey water. Grey water is made up of bath, shower, washing machine water and general rinse water. Typically it is not advisable to use dish washing water as the fat content is damaging to plant life. Dish washing water usually gets added to the sewage system which is called black water. An average household (family of 4) typically uses between 200-300l of reusable water per day. The average suburban garden can account for as much as 46% of domestic water consumption, so using grey water in the garden can significantly reduce your water consumption.
KimK May 2013