Be a Water Warrior

“We never know the worth of water ‘til the well runs dry.” - Thomas Fuller (17th century English historian)

Water is everywhere, in us and around us, in liquid, solid or gas form. We rely on water each and every day for our very lives and wellbeing. You can survive about a month without food, but only 5 to 7 days without water.

Water is reusable and not renewable. It is possible to drink water that was here in the dinosaur era. But, the water we have on Earth is finite and the amount of water that is available for human consumption is actually reducing due to many wasteful or polluting practices.

Despite South Africa’s 2 528 registered water-supply dams and expansive infrastructure investment, the country’s financially viable freshwater resources are almost depleted.

Of the 223 river ecosystems in South Africa, 60% are threatened, of which 25% are critically endangered.

The agriculture sector accounts for 60% of the country’s water use, whereas municipal and domestic sectors use 27%. However, municipalities in South Africa have registered water losses of up to 37%. Moreover, where no records are kept by municipalities, this loss is estimated to be 50%. (Source: Proposed National Water Resource Strategy 2 [NWRS2])

Important facts about SA’s water situation:

1. South Africa gets most of its water from rainfall.

2. SA’s rainfall, at 490 mm per year, is half the world average.

3. Low inputs and large population make SA more water scarce than Namibia.

4. A growing economy needs water and this will be met in an increasingly uncertain, volatile and warmer climate.

5. A two-degree increase in global temperatures means a four degree increase for South Africa.

6. Less rain is predicted in the western half of the country and potentially more intense flood events in the east.

7. National demand is projected to increase by 32% (to 17 700 million m3) by 2030 due to population growth and industrial development. This is beyond the limit we can safely allocate.

Source: World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF-SA)

“Water runs through our every aspiration as a society.” - Kader Asmal (professor of human rights & SA politician)

How you can help:

  • Commit yourself and your family members to water saving (there are many tips below to help get you started).
  • If your municipality has imposed water restrictions – adhere to them!
  • Report any municipal leakages to the relevant authorities.
  • Call out those who are wasting, be it your neighbours or a corporate.
  • Be aware of your water footprint (everything we use, wear, buy, sell and eat takes water to make).
  • Share knowledge about water conservation – social media makes this real easy.

How to use less water:

Water doesn’t just come from the tap – it takes a long, complicated journey to reach consumers. Together we can reduce the impact we have on this precious resource.

At home:

  • Be aware of your direct water footprint. Conduct a water audit - determine your monthly water use from your municipal bill and set goals to become more water efficient. Monitor your use and keep track of your progress.
  • Fix leaks at home (even a slow drip can waste 30 litres a day) and report public water leaks to your local municipality. An estimated 37% of water is lost from leaks in urban supply systems and last year, water leaks costs South Africa about R7.2 billion.
  • Do not pour toxic paint, solvents, chemicals, poisons or pesticides into storm-water, sewer drains or normal rubbish. Find out where your nearest hazardous waste site is and dispose of polluting substances responsibly.
  • Be water wise and purchase water-efficient devices and water-saving appliances. Use the economy cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine to save water and energy.
  • Each person uses roughly 60 l of water per day just for flushing. A water saving toilet device can cut that figure in half. So flush less and put a 2l bottle filled with water in your cistern
  • Only use an approved water saving product in your toilet. Despite what you may have heard, you shouldn’t use bricks, as they crumble and damage toilet pipes.
  • Take a 5 minute shower and save up to 100 litres that baths can use.
  • Turn off the water while washing your hair.
  • While showering is recognised as more water efficient than bathing, showering still adds up to 20% of indoor water use. An average shower uses around 35l of water, by installing a water saving shower head you can cut that consumption by up to 20%.
  • Put buckets in the shower for runoff water and under drains to catch water during rain for your garden.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and save 9 litres.
  • Only use your dishwasher when it’s full and stop it before the drying cycle so it can air dry. If you fill two sinks; one with soapy water and one with warm water for rinsing, this will use less water than a dishwasher.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water to save water and energy.
  • Sweep away leaves and debris rather than using a hose to spray them away.
  • Minimise how often you wash your car.
  • Don’t use water-based toys like water guns, water balloons, etc.
  • If you want to keep your kids cool, use a shallow shell pool.
  • If you have a pool, don’t fill it to the top – splashing leads to serious waste.
  • Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation.

In the garden:

  • Make your garden water-wise by planting indigenous drought-resistant plants which require minimal watering.
  • Identify and remove invasive alien vegetation from your garden and local wetland.
  • Find out which water wise plants    will grow in your garden.
  • Additionally, only water your garden very early in the morning or after sunset to reduce unnecessary evaporation.
  • Capture rainwater from gutters to use in your garden and invest in a rainwater tank. Using rain water minimizes the losses from piped systems and this is untreated so has a lower carbon-footprint.
  • Install a grey-water system and recycle water at home. Generally, 40-60% of household water is used for non-essential purposes, such as watering gardens and filling swimming pools.
  • Drip irrigation systems are 90% more efficient and effective than traditional sprinkler systems.
  • Use a watering can to make sure the water goes where it’s needed.
  • Protect and keep your local freshwater ecosystems pollution-free. If you see someone polluting water call the Blue Scorpions on 0800 200 200.

At work:

  • Ditch the bottled water – it takes 3 litres of tap water to make one litre of bottled water.
  • Join an initiative like #WatershedWednesday to save water in the office:

WWF South Africa is asking staff to bring their own (maximum 2-litre) water supply to work on 29 November 2017. All taps and urns will be off limits for the day outside of an hour’s reprieve from 12 noon to 1pm.

Statistics show that flushing toilets are currently the biggest consumer of potable water in the workplace – and so staff will also be encouraged to make use of “permission cubicles” where they can let the yellow mellow in good conscience.

This symbolic ‘’watershed moment’’ is to drive much-needed awareness that we cannot continue to leave our water-saving habits at home! We need to apply them in our offices, our businesses, our malls and other public places if we are to get through the drought together.

In the shop:

  • Think before you buy. Many don’t realise that water is consumed indirectly through the food we eat and the things we buy. For example, to produce 1kg of beef requires 15 400 litres of water. A glass of beer requires 300 litres, a litre milk 1 000 litres and a pair of jeans 11 000 litres.

How to do a water audit:

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. Check your water usage:

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 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.

2.3 Understand your water account and the tariff structure. Households get certain 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.

 3. Look at the options you have to collect rainwater 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 groundwater can provide you with a level of independence during times of water shortages.

4. Reuse your greywater. 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 200-300 l 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.


Woolworths/ WWF-SA 


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