Water is the new gold

Water has become as precious as gold in Cape Town, South Africa, recently.  We are currently in a dramatic time in our history with Capetonians saving water everywhere they turn.  Did you know that climate trends over the past 40 years gave no sign of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration?

When we arrived in Cape Town in December 2013, dams were full and overflowing during the winter of 2014.  I remember buying gumboots and walking around outside in my garden in the mud.  We also didn’t think that the 2015 drought would continue over another year.

The result has been that most of us are in a bit of a state of shock here in Cape Town.  We have had to get used to dirty cars (it’s now fashionable to have a car that’s dusty looking), wearing our clothing more than once and doing what we call ‘bucket baths’.  For those who are not in the know, this means that you wash down using a facecloth (starting at the top of your body), rinse the cloth in a few litres of water, wipe down and then dry yourself.  We also, dare not discard that water.  Any grey or excess water is used to flush toilets.

To help you along in educating yourself and your children, I have compiled a list of tips for you.


  1. Collect clean water that you run off before showering (this is while you are waiting for hot water).  Use this for cooking, drinking or flushing the toilets.  Play a 90 second song while you shower. Turn the shower on and off in between wetting, soaping and rinsing.  Consider showering every second day and use a facecloth or wetwipes on the other day.
  2. Because it is summer, sleep under a sheet and blanket. Then you only need to use your duvet cover for decoration.
  3. When brushing your teeth, use a small glass of water to rinse your toothbrush and mouth out.
  4. Place a nappy bag in the dustbin and then once you’ve used the toilet, put the toilet paper in the dustbin.  This will result in less clogging of the toilets.  Remember to empty the dustbin regularly.  I had to do this in the Middle East and it works really well.  Pour a little vinegar or a few drops of bleach into stinky toilets and grey water buckets.
  5. A friend recommended using cornstarch as a natural dry shampoo – this means you wash your hair less often.
  6. Let everyone share the bath water. When your children are tiny, they get very dirty.  Wipe them down with a facecloth bath or put them into a small tub and share the water.  The bath water is kept for flushing.  
  7. Use waterless hand sanitizer or eco-friendly wet-wipes instead of liquid soap.
  8. If you cook pasta, potatoes or boil eggs, then strain the water off into a bucket and once cooled you could use this for flushing or pour it over the plants outside.
  9. Keep a bowl in the prep bowl to rinse vegetables and fruit.  At the end of the day use that water to flush toilets or water outside or indoor plants.
  10. Serve food straight out of the pot, pan or braai.  Better yet, serve finger foods that don’t need a plate (sandwiches, wraps, pita breads) or switch to paper plates.  Go for one pot meals or cook a few meals in bulk and freeze the extra.
  11. At the end of the meal, try to wipe plates down before washing so that you will use less water to wash the dirty dishes.
  12. Denim jeans can be worn multiple times.  Hang your clothing on hanger outside of your cupboard after you have worn them to air.  
  13. Hang your bath or swimming towels in the sun as this will dry them out quickly and prevent them from smelling.  Sun is also a great germ-killer . 
  14. Collect any and all rainwater that you can into rain-tanks, into your pool and in buckets. This can be used for flushing, house use and in the garden.
  15. Teach your children about the environment and ways to save water.  Get your children to help you around the house and to hang up their own towels or wear their school clothes a second day.  Have a challenge in your home to see who can save the most water.  Make it fun!

Finally, help the person next to you. For example think about the elderly or disabled.  How can you help them?  By helping each other during this crisis, we learn to love our neighbour as we love ourselves and that’s a good thing.

Remember that your water total includes what you use outside the house as well.  It counts when you are at the gym, eating at restaurants, at school and at work. Remember to practice water saving ways where-ever you are.

Determine in your mind that you will do everything you can to save water.  “It’s not about having money to buy water, but about all of us doing our part to make sure that we don’t run out of water and that the taps don’t get switched off.  We all share this planet and need to consider each other and save water!” commented my 15 year-old daughter.

I’d love to hear what you are doing…please let me know how you save water in a creative way.

I snapped this pic at our local gym

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: