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Water Wise – How We Got A Credit On Our Water Account, During a Drought & Water Restrictions.

We’re in the middle of a heatwave in Gauteng, agitation levels are at an all time high, we’re all hot, sticky and irritated. On Sunday, friends of our came over for lunch, with a boot loaded with empty 5l water bottles because there was no water in Midrand from Friday. Not because of a burst pipe or because of poor service, but because of the extreme drought currently gripping the country.

South Africa is not a water rich country.

Water is a scarce resource, without it, we all suffer, we all die. And yet, I am just astounded by the number of arrogant, ignorant, entitled assholes out there. Despite level 3 water restrictions, there are still people washing their cars, using their sprinklers and carrying on like we’re not in the midst of drought. What infuriates me is the attitude of some that they’ll just pay the fines and exorbitant costs for over using water, because it’s still cheaper than replacing their gardens when the drought ends. 

News flash assholes!

This is not a service delivery issue. This is not like the Eskom power issue that can be fixed with more money and infrastructure. This is a drought and without rain and without water, a whole lot more than your garden is going to suffer.

We have taken being water wise very seriously in our home. Like most of you, my garden currently looks like this:

Drought

The only reason my grass is green is because of the few days of rain we had a couple of weeks ago. Up until then, our lawn was like a rock hard, sand patch, that hurt your feet if you walked on it without shoes.

Our neighborhood Whatsapp group is also serious about this. People on that group have no issue naming and shaming neighbors who run their borehole sprinkler at midday, or water their grass verges at 6am daily. They will name and shame you and I am 100% behind that! 

For the past few months, Joburg Water has been doing estimates and we’ve been paying a hefty water bill each month. Then last month, they came and did a water meter reading and guess what happened?

We got a R650 credit on our water account.

That’s how seriously we’ve taken being water wise in our home. That’s how stingy we’ve been with our water. And we did it by implementing a few simple steps into our daily routines. Nothing fancy, nothing that required altering our plumbing, just simple steps that have less than halved our water usage. 

A few of you asked how we did it, so here are our household tips for being water wise:

If It’s Yellow Let It Mellow! If It’s Brown Flush It Down. 

So simple really. We’ve been teaching our girls this too. Because toilets use a lot of water! So why flush unless you have to. We now wait until the bowl has been used a few times before flushing, except of course if someone dropped brown bears. Also, no one is allowed to leave the bathroom until the toilet has finished flushing to make sure it doesn’t continue to run unnecessarily. 

Fix Leaking Taps.

Usually a simple solution like a new washer in the tap will do this. Don’t ever leave a tap dripping. EVER.

Boil The Kettle For Hot Water.

That’s right. We don’t turn taps on and wait for the water to heat up when washing dishes. We boil the kettle, fill the basin with the kettle water and then add enough cold water to be able to wash the dishes. We also only wash dishes when there is enough to warrant a basin of water. 

Only Run The Wishwasher/Washing Machine When It’s a Full Load.

So we wait until the dishwasher is full or there is a full load of washing before running either appliance. 

Showering.

We store a 20L bucket in our shower. We only shower once a day and make sure to shower one straight after the the other. The person who goes first is the one washing hair. The excess water falls into the bucket. Turn off the taps while shampooing and soaping. When the second person gets in, they use a sponge with water from the bucket to wet their bodies, then soap and only then turn on the water to rinse off. Showering like this, we collect in the region of 20L’s of water which we then use to water our pot plants as well as transferring the water into a watering can for the grass and plants which we water in patches using this grey water. 

Turn Off Your Sprinklers.

A pretty garden will mean nothing when everything else is dead! I read somewhere a week ago that even using hosepipes is now forbidden. Only watering with a watering can and not between 6am and 6pm.

Bathing Children.

It’s no longer about sitting in a deep bath of bubbles and playing for an hour. We now put just enough water in the bath to wet and wash the girls. Once they’re out the bath, we scoop what we can from the bath into our trusty bucket and use that water on the garden. 

Personal Hygiene.

Turn off your taps while brushing your teeth, shampooing your hair or washing your body, you don’t need to have water gushing out of a tap to perform these functions. 

Stop Filling Your Pool.

I am so thankful that we had our leaky swimming pool fixed during the winter months and our pool is no longer losing water daily. Having said that, we do not fill our swimming pool. Instead, we rely on the little bits of rain we have had, to top our pool up. And when it runs low, we simply turn the pump off.

Kids LOVE TO Swim!

So, especially on weekends, our girls forego a bath and instead take a swim. We then wipe them down with a soapy cloth and they’re good to go. Heck, I’ve done this on the really hot, sticky days, I prefer to shower in the mornings but when I’m hot and sweaty, I use our pool at night to cool off and rinse off.

Guys, we are so stingy with our water, that I even go so far as to use our water glasses from our bedside tables, to water indoor plants or toss in the pool because right now, every drop helps. 

I also really want a JoJo tank for our upstairs balcony to store grey water that can be used for miscellaneous watering. 

What are your tips for being water wise? 

At the end of the day, these are the small things that each and everyone of us can do to help. Because if I have to choose between a pretty garden and no water for days at a time, or walking km’s daily to collect a bucket of water, well then I choose a dead garden. 

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32 Comments

  • Reply Lisa-Marie

    COMPLETELY behind you on this one. I know that it’s worse for you guys up there, but it’s bad all round and the fact that it is blatantly ignored gets my goat too. I see sprinklers in our road as well and it infuriates me no end!
    Even though I’m fortunate enough to have a relatively water wise garden, mine is also slowly dying. Grass? Well, I have a bit but the rest is just dry crusty thorny bits.
    Thankfully I had my pool repaired so there is no need to fill it as often as I used to in the past when it leaked. I used a pool company that conserved about 80% of my pool water when it was emptied and I let the City of Cape Town know in advance that there would possibly be the need for me to do a top up – I was not charged for this and I felt it only fair to notify them.
    Isabella and I bath together – but I do the same as you with regards to an evening swim and a “hands, face and fee” style wash before bed.
    Toilet – same as you.
    I’ve had to turn off a leaky tap in her bathroom in this last week and I’m going to have that fixed shortly.
    It’s crazy and downright infuriating that there are really way too many selfish chops in our country who have absolute disregard for this crises! Last year this time things were bad – this year will be so much worse. And I’m honestly a little scared.
    Imagine what a difference it would make if everyone sat up, took notice and followed the rules instead of being so STUPID about it.

    October 31, 2016 at 8:10 am
  • Reply Jacqueline

    We installed a DIY grey water system last year when the drought started, it was the best thing we ever did. You do not realise how much usable water goes down the drain until you are emptying buckets of water into your garden. We also share baths to reduce usage and run the washing machine and dishwasher less often. I am trying to find a way to use grey water to flush the loo – seems such a waste to use good clean water to flush.

    October 31, 2016 at 8:23 am
  • Reply Cindy Alfino

    This is really great Sharon! It’s not so bad in CT yet, but we should all do this anyway!

    October 31, 2016 at 10:16 am
  • Reply Caroline

    Gah!!! It incenses me it when I comment about people watering their gardens with sprinkler systems and people turn around and say “but sprinkler systems use less water” … don’t they get it… would you rather have a green garden or water to DRINK people!!! We are doing all those little bits also… and I even follow the kids to the bathroom when they wash their hands to make sure the tap is off whilst soaping! Going to also implement the bucket in the shower also, even though I already only shower every second day, unless I stink.

    October 31, 2016 at 11:10 am
  • Reply paddatjiesema

    We’ve got a completely dead garden, but seem to be the only one in the street with one. And same as some of the other comments, we had a swimming pool leak fixed in the winter. We always thought it was just normal topping up, but since fixing the leak we don’t need to top up the pool. The little bit of rain we had is enough to keep it above the weir level. For the toilet flushing. Two reasons we flush when we pee as well. One – I can’t stand the smell, although I seem to be the only one bothered by it, and two, the toilet paper built up caused our drain to be blocked. But we don’t need to do a full flush. Just let it start flushing and then stop it. Luckily we can do that with our type of toilets.

    I also saw my cousin is using a hose pipe from her washing machine to her pool, and have noticed other people are draining it to their gardens.

    But the one thing that really infuriates me is that we are doing everything we can, but the municipality doesn’t seem to be on board. A main road close to us has a fire hydrant that has water spewing out of it and down the road. This has been going on for two weeks. Any leaks in the area take weeks to repair.

    October 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply Leah Beauty (@LeahBeauty_za)

    I live in Cape Town and we only flush our toilet at the end of the day and we have done this for plenty of years | We only take a bath once per month – 3 people in the house otherwise we only wash ourselves at the basin the essentials | we use all our bath and washing machine water and used it for our garden | dishes are being washes per hand and we boil our water (urn) for this | we don’t have a swimming pool. So this is nothing new to us. If your household budget are very tight you spare on every corner where you can.

    October 31, 2016 at 4:39 pm
  • Reply poerdez

    We divert shower water directly to the grass with the use of “creepy pipes” as well as all washing machine water. We rinse dishes in a bucket and use that to water plants afterwards.

    November 1, 2016 at 7:55 am
  • Reply Sam

    We have half a brick in each of our toilet cisterns which reduces the amount of water used when flushing. We also do the if its’ yellow let it mellow one, and we have a chart to mark off how many wee’s are allowed before we flush. We also have set up a grey water system which waters our back garden and helps fill the pool (altho thank goodness the recent rain has helped us there tremendously)

    November 1, 2016 at 11:53 am
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