How to Save Water in South Africa – The Ultimate Guide

How to Save Water in South Africa – The Ultimate Guide

save water

Find the latest tips on how to save water in South Africa with these water saving techniques you can use at home, at your business, in the garden and everywhere else you go.  

Water is a scarce resource, not only in South Africa, but in many parts of the world. While residents in Johannesburg seek shelter from the rain, Capetonians are forced to make sure that water consumption is at a low. With the current drought crisis in the Western Cape and Level 6B water restrictions still in place , the need to save water and  avoid Day Zero  is still prevalent.

To help conserve this precious resource we’ve done all the research you need to save water in every kind of environment. Every precious drop counts and it’s important that every individual and organisation learns how to save water in the most effective way possible.

Table of Contents

  1. Why you should save water
  2. How to save water in your home
  3. How to save water in your business or organisation
  4. How to save water in your garden
  5. How to save water with your lifestyle choices
  6. Water scarcity in the world

“To a thirsty man, a drop of water is worth more than a sack of gold.”  

1. Why You Should Save Water

Water is life. Not only do you need water to survive but it is an essential resource in all matter. 71% of earth is covered with water but only 1% of it  is drinkable. As water is necessary for all life and especially for human survival, the importance of this resource is clear.

With climate change, the weather patterns in the world have changed and South Africa’s catchment area has seen a severe scarcity of water, according to the Department of Water and Sanitation at the City of Cape Town.

The positive news is that water levels in the Western Cape, where the drought has been rife, are rising. Unfortunately measures still need to be taken to keep the dam levels at above constant and fill them to as close to 100% as possible.

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According to Africacheck, the following statistics showcase the current water situation in South Africa.

  1. Roughly 88 % of SA households have access to water.
  2. There is piped water in less than 50% of the homes.
  3. South Africa has less water per person than Botswana & Namibia.
  4. South Africa is the 39th ‘driest’ country in the world.

The above video is produced by the Water Rooms, watch it to find out where and how much freshwater is available on planet earth.

Everyone has a role to play to ensure that water is used in a sustainable manner.

General Quick Tips on How to Save Water

  • Monitor how much water you are consuming.
  • Find and fix leaks. The DropDrop App can help you.
  • Use alternative water resources, like collecting rain water or using grey water.
  • Use hand sanitiser. But be warned – use it (and soap) properly or risk creating antibacterial-resistance, just like not finishing your antibiotics script.

2. How to Save Water in Your Home

Starting at home, it’s important to realise how much water  you can actually save. For each area of your home you are able to reduce a significant amount of water just by using effective techniques. To make the water saving journey as simple as possible, find water saving techniques for your home below.

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Existing Bathrooms:

  • Take shorter showers. Turn the shower on, wet yourself, turn it off. Soap yourself, rinse, and you’re done. Showering once a day and filling up less water in your bath can save a lot of water.
  • Use a basin in the shower. Collect all the water you shower with and use this to flush your toilet, either via the cistern or straight into the bowl.
  • Wash your hair less often. With training and a few uncomfortable days your hair can adapt to being washed less often.
  • Shave with a small container of water. There’s no need to keep water running this way when shaving.
  • Reduce the amount of water you use when flushing the toilet. Lift the toilet handle immediately when flushing and only flush if needed. By doing this you reduce the amount of water running down the drain.
  • Put a brick or bottle in the cistern of the toilet. This allows the cistern to fill up with less water.
  • If you have a baby that cannot stand up in the shower, wash the baby in a basin or use a baby dam.
  • Change your shower head to a water saving alternative
  • Collect steam/moisture with a dehumidifier. The water collected can be used as a source of greywater.

save water south africa

New Bathrooms:

  • Fit water saving shower heads. A single temperature lever (instead of two taps) makes taking a shorter shower even easier – consider this when installing a shower.

Some alternative shower head solutions you can consider are:

Some alternative water saving nozzles you can consider in a new or existing bathroom are:

Some alternative water saving toilets you can consider are:

Existing Kitchens:

  • Put basins in your sinks and don’t leave water running when washing dishes. The basin can be used for freshwater to rinse vegetables or dishes.
  • Boil water when washing dishes. Very hot water cleans your dishes more efficiently, which means you won’t need as much water or soap. It’s wise to leave the greasiest dishes for last.
  • Use one-pot recipes when cooking meals. Often, using more than one pot is unnecessary when cooking.
  • Steam your vegetables instead of boiling them. By doing this you are also cooking your vegetables in a healthier way.
  • Scrape and wipe your plates clean before putting them in the dishwasher so you can use a shorter cycle.
  • Put a full load of washing into the washing machine and dishwasher.
  • Use paper cups and plates. Remember, plastic is extremely bad for the environment.

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New Kitchens:

  • Fit water saving nozzles on the kitchen sinks.

Some alternative water saving nozzles you can consider in new and existing kitchens are:

save water south africa

3. How to Save Water in Your Business or Organisation

Water is needed for everything we produce and consume, which directly affects businesses. With this in mind, the impact organisations can make is huge, not only in Cape Town but in the entire world.

Businesses have an important role to play in the water conservation journey and can influence individuals, communities and other businesses to save water efficiently. We’ve noted the following water saving techniques to help save water efficiently within your business.

save water south africa

Tops Ways to Save Water in Your Business:

Existing Office Space:

  • Educate your staff on the importance of saving water. Make sure they understand how to save water both at home and at work. A good initiative is to start a water saving project within the organisation.
  • Do regular water saving audits. This will allow the organisation to monitor how much water is being used and which areas of the organisation are using more water.
  • Use hand sanitizer in bathrooms.
  • Flush toilets only when necessary.
  • When cleaning office premises, don’t use water over excessively.
  • Use a pool cover if the organisation has a pool.
  • Use a product like LooMe or PooPourri to keep smells down. Alternatively use shaving foam in the cistern so you don’t need to flush so often.
  • Exchange the toilets for water efficient alternatives.

Quick Fact: Drink less coffee! “About 18 900 litres of water is needed to produce 1 kg of roasted coffee. For a standard cup of coffee, one needs about 7 g of roasted coffee, so that a cup of coffee uses about 130 litres of water.” (Source: City of Cape Town Water Conservation)

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New Office Space:

  • Fit water saving taps or fit existing taps with aerators.

Some alternative water saving nozzles you can consider in new or existing office spaces are:

Some alternative water saving toilets you can consider are:

4. How to Save Water in Your Garden

Plants also need water to survive, but it’s possible to reduce the amount of water used to keep them healthy. Saving water in the garden is just as important as saving water at home or at your business. 70% of households with gardens use up to 46% of their water for gardening. That’s a lot. We’ve noted several water saving techniques you can use to save water in the garden below.

save water south africa

Existing Gardens:

  • Plant succulents and other water-wise plants. The best plants will most probably be those that naturally occur in the area where you live, as they will be adapted to the local quantity of rainfall and shouldn’t need your extra assistance. Here’s a list of lovely water wise plants.
  • Remove invasive and water hungry plant species. Check that none of the plants in your garden are water hungry species such as invasive alien Pine trees, Eucalyptus/Gums, Wattles and Australian Acacias and Jacaranda trees.

Fact: 1,44 billion litres of water is lost to invasive alien plants nationally, which could essentially sustain 3.38 million households with four people living for one year or 120,000 HA of cropland to increase food production (Source: World Wildlife Fund)

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  • Spread wood chippings or mulch in your garden beds. This technique will reduce evaporation from the soil and prevent the growth of weeds. Plants that provide ground cover can also serve this function.
  • Take out your lawn. Lawns are water hungry and can be swapped for much nicer alternatives.  Some succulents do this job excellently and are even nice to walk on when fully established.
  • Wash your car on your lawn.
  • Ask your local nursery for indigenous and water wise ground covering plants. that can replace a lawn.
  • Indoor plants can benefit from living in your bathroom, where there will be more moisture in the air. Some may need more light than your bathroom offers so keep an eye on the plant’s health.
  • Cover your vegetable garden with a shade cloth. This can deter pets while reducing evaporation.
  • Consult a local landscaper to help you plant a waterwise garden.

To find out which plants grow naturally in your area, check out SANBI’s search tool. Click your rainfall region and the “drought tolerant” checkbox, as well as other factors about your garden (the amount of sunlight for example). The search tool will then generate a list of plants that would suit your garden.

New Gardens:

  • Invest in a greywater system.
  • Invest in a water tank and connect all your gutters to it. If the tank fills up and you have a swimming pool, the overflow water could go into that. Your water tank can serve as emergency drinking water (when filtered) or be used in the toilet and garden.
  • Use a drip irrigation system, instead of watering with a hose. This method slowly drips water and means that a lot less water is lost to evaporation.

save water south africa

Existing Swimming Pools:

  • Turn off the automatic fill-up in your swimming pool. Apart from saving water, a continually dropping water level will also alert you to leaks in the system.
  • Make sure you have a swimming pool cover to reduce the speed of evaporation of water. This will make a big difference to your water consumption.
  • Convert your swimming pool to an underground water tank. If you only swim a few times per summer, is the water consumption really worth it? A gym membership may offer a warmer alternative if it’s exercise you’re after.
  • Install a backwash tank. A backwash tank holds your pool’s backwash water and releases it back into the pool, instead of letting it go to waste.

5. How to Save Water with Your Lifestyle Choices

save water south africa

Everything we use and eat has a water footprint. It’s possible for us to save water just by adjusting our lifestyle. According to the Water Footprint Network, ‘the water footprint is a measure of humanity’s appropriation of fresh water in volumes of water consumed and/or polluted.’ For example, leaving a mouthful of steak on your plate is equivalent to running your dishwasher 22 times. This is due to the fact that water is needed to produce the crops, which are fed to the cattle and the cattle then lands on your plate.

Water is needed for every aspect of the journey. Below are a few ways you can save water by changing up certain lifestyle choices.

  • Reduce your meat and dairy intake. Beef has the greatest “water footprint” so cutting this out of your diet can save your country water. Only 3% of an individual’s water footprint is household use, whereas 73% comes from our diet and the food we  eat.

“It takes three times more water to produce milk than vegetables, ten times more water to produce eggs, fourteen times more water to produce chicken meat, nineteen times more water to produce pork, and forty eight times more water to produce beef than vegetables.”  

– Dr. Arjen Hoekstra & others, The Water Footprint Assessment Manual

save water south africa

WWF has calculated the amount of water certain foods need to be produced in South Africa (Image Source: World Wildlife Fund).
  • Be mindful of the products you buy. When shopping for goods, reduce the amount of plastic you buy. Instead use paper cups, paper plates and buy food without the plastic wrapping where you can.

6. Water Scarcity in the World

Many places around the world are experiencing drought and water scarcity. People are living with less water than they need. According to the World Wildlife Fund, roughly 1,1 billion people still don’t have access to water. That’s a lot of people. And despite the data, many people still don’t know how to use water sustainably.

Water affects everything: education, health, food and security. There are many examples of vulnerable cities  facing water crises, such as Beijing, Cairo, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Istanbul, Lahore and Bangalore.

Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems and the world’s population alive are running dry or becoming polluted. An important strategy around the world has become the re-use of wastewater.

With this strategy individuals are able to recover water, nutrients, or energy. In turn countries are using wastewater for irrigation – which represents 7% of irrigated land in developing countries.

We’re in a water crisis. The story is similar everywhere and because of this, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. Due to the water shortages, there are warnings of conflict and mass migration, which some experts say is already happening in Syria.

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In a nutshell here’s why water conservation is key:

  • Fresh water is scarce around the world.
  • Humans need water to survive.
  • A large amount of water is used to irrigate farmland for food production. The farming industry in South Africa are the leading direct users of water, consuming roughly 66% of water in South Africa.
  • Water is essential for manufacturing (especially in heavy industries which require a lot of water as a power source or for cooling).
  • Conserving water can save energy. To pump water and to use the sewage system, energy is required. By saving water you can reduce your carbon footprint and the water bill.

New technologies are emerging around us  every day and innovative minds are working together to come up with new water saving solutions. With the severity of the water crisis it’s crucial to start thinking of long-term solutions rather than short term gains.

One area which is experiencing a lot of interest and innovation is desalination, known as turning saltwater into drinking water. Added to that there are also many nifty water saving devices which are being sold on the market.

The power of innovation and technology can help reduce the amount of water we use in our  day to day life.

Water scarcity and drought however, has become a frequent phenomenon in many regions of the earth and it’s crucial to continue saving water. Safe and readily available water is necessary for the general health of humans.

A good amount of rainfall won’t solve the problem, since it takes between 500 and 1 300 years to fill an aquifer. We need to all take action today.

Everyone needs to join the conservation train, even if it only means implementing a few water saving techniques.

Every drop really does count.

New solutions for water conservation

It has become a “moral imperative” for major businesses operating in South Africa to adopt water saving schemes for their buildings, thereby helping the country sustain the declining resource.

CEO of car rental company Avis, Wayne Duvenage, did not mince his words at the Sustainable Water Resource Conference and Exhibition. The event, held in Kempton Park on 16 and 17 August, was attended by leading water experts and businesspeople and supported by the International Marketing Council of South Africa – among a range of sponsors.

Recycling water for reuse in buildings was the experts’ principal recommendation. Homeowners are also advised to go for recycling technologies.

Avis saved 75-million litres of water in 2010 in its major centres in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

The Avis scheme kicked off in 2008 with a R1.9-million (US$264 000) investment, and started paying off in 2009 when the company saved 4.2-million litres.

Avis has pumped an additional R1.5-million ($208 000) into the construction of underground water filtration and recycling facilities at its three main depots. The aim is to save at least 95-million litres of water each year.

“We decided to recycle water because that was the right thing to do,” said Duvenage. “We’re recycling water that was going down the drain.”

The company reprocesses grey water from washing machines and baths, which is then used to wash most of its fleet of 20 000 rental cars, while potable water from public sources remains available to employees for hygienic use.

Harvesting rainwater is a focus of Avis’ recycling efforts. “You know how much it rains in Cape Town, so it’s nice to switch off municipal water and use rainwater,” said Duvenage.

It’s always recommended for entities to study the impact of their business on the environment, he pointed out.


Conserving a precious resource


South Africa is water-stressed, experts at the conference revealed. Reports have pointed out that the country runs the risk of facing critical shortages by 2020.

“South Africa is stressed both in the quantity and quantity of water that we have,” Duvenage said.

Alison Groves, a sustainability consultant at WSP Green by Design, said: “In South Africa we need to get beyond the idea that water is always going to be available.”

New solutions are needed to sustain potable water availability, Groves added.

Her consultancy group has established itself as an industry leader in the greening of major buildings, having helped big companies such as Absa, Nedbank and Woolworths introduce water-saving and eco-friendly schemes in their properties.

Banking group Absa’s headquarters in downtown Johannesburg have been fitted with recycling and rainwater harvesting technology that allows it to save at least 43 000 litres of water every day.

Retailer Woolworths’ distribution centre in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, is another facility with a large grey water reclamation system. Groves pointed out that the centre has “irrigation ensured for 10 months per year without using potable water”.

Woolworths saves R1-million ($139 000) in municipal water bills per year thanks to its recycling efforts.

Other companies, such as South African Breweries, are rolling out major water-saving schemes in a bid to help protect the precious resource.

Duvenage pointed out that “business is starting to change its behaviour” in accordance with the green revolution, but there is room for improvement. “We believe business has to act much faster,” he said.


Residences can reduce consumption


It’s not only businesses and public entities that should assume the responsibility of saving water, but homeowners can play a major role as well.

The grey water technology of Cape Town-based Water Rhapsody, a specialist water conservation company, has proven its efficiency in recent years.

Its founder Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor said that water recycled and harvested through its system is suitable for irrigation, toilet flushing, cleaning and washing.

Homes can reduce consumption from 280 litres to “as little as 100 litres per day” and save up to 90% of their municipal water bill by using the system.

“But it’s done in such a way that you don’t change your lifestyle. You just take control of your own supply,” said Westgarth-Taylor.

Water Rhapsody won the WWF Green Trust award in 1998 for product innovation. It’s helped the University of Cape Town reduce potable water consumption by over 90%.

The late Kader Asmal, former Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, told Water Rhapsody, in a 2010 letter to the company, that its water recycling system helped nourish grass and shrubs in the garden of his Cape Town home.

First published by – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.

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