The level 3 water restrictions implemented for 1 Nov 2016 in Cape Town focus on residential water use which accounts for over 60% of the potable water consumed in the city.  While many households are panicking about surviving these serious water restrictions, Pat and Gerda’s home in Clovelly, Cape Town is a celebration of being water-wise-gardenwater wise. From the bright floral rain drum in the front garden to the fun al fresco shower in theback garden,  their water saving initiatives are a wonderful combination of  innovative water use and collecting water creatively.

Gerda was the initiating energy, explains Pat.  She started with some rather quirky ideas about collecting both rain and grey water.  “I helped install the systems even though I thought some of her ideas were a bit strange.  We use all our grey water, except dish washing water, and have barrels and tanks to collect rain water.  As a result, our water account dropped from between R200 to R300 per month to rarely more than R20 per month. Proof that quirky is in fact clever.  “Now I am totally committed” smiled Pat “and I feel good about being so water conscious – after all water is life.”

Gerda learnt to value water during a particularly devastating drought in the Free State.  “Water was so scare I had to bath myself and the children in a carefully rationed bucket of water collected from the neighbour’s borehole.”  Coping throughout that terrible drought left Gerda with a deep appreciation of just how precious water-wise-al-fresco-showerwater is, but her creativity and desire to be independent also motivates her.  She and Pat have turned their garden into a food garden with chickens and bees and a variety of vegetables which of course need regular watering.  The water comes from a collection of rain tanks and drums.

Their use of the grey water is especially enterprising.  The water from the washing machine goes into a drum which is used to flush the toilet.  It also gets topped up with shower water.  Even the teenagers shower while standing in the red basin to ensure that very little water runs away.  When using the outside shower, a sign on the backyard gate warns that a shower is in progress and privacy would be preferred! The shower water is mainly used to water the shrubs and flowering plants.

“People would be shocked“ commented Pat, “if they really knew just how much water, in most cases drinking water, gets flushed down the toilet. During a recent Sunday family get together, the 200ltr tank we use to flush the toilet was emptied!” he exclaimed as he showed me the ingenious system he had rigged to flush the toilet with grey water.  Firstly the toilet is a standard, if older model toilet.  Pat replaced the cistern lid with an old fashioned one with decorative holes so that you can see inside the cistern.  The cistern is kept empty and inside on the white porcwater-wise-toilet-uses-grey-waterelain are two markers for `No 1’ and `No 2’ respectively.  Before you `go’ you open a neat tap on the inlet pipe and fill the cistern to the appropriate level.  The water gravity feeds from a greywater tank immediately outside the bathroom.  When you flush, the cistern empties and no residual water remains thereby avoiding any grey water odours in the bathroom.  If the grey water tank gets a bit whiffy, Gerda drops in a few caps full of bleach.

Pat and Gerda laughed when I commented that they were taking being water wise to a new level.  “Some people think we are a bit crazy, but we don’t mind. What makes us sad is that all too often people think that individually we can’t make a difference”.  Pat and Gerda are certainly making a difference as well as building resilience and a degree of water independence in a way that is fun and rewarding.  Next on their agenda is an additional rain tank – because every drop counts!  I came away inspired. Their passion for finding ways of reusing and saving water is infectious. Our home is fairly water wise, but thanks to meeting them I am making the use of greywater to flush our toilets a priority. What is your’s?

Kim Kruyshaar 1 November 2016