Even as water restrictions in the Western Cape are fast receding in our collective memory, we should remain mindful that South Africa is a water scarce country and we are ALL responsible for using water with care.
It is important to save water in your own home but also important to be mindful of the bigger picture. For example, showering at the gym reduces your household’s water consumption, but doesn’t reduce the total water usage from the dams, which is where we need to see the bottom line!
Here are a few handy tips for saving water in your kitchen:
The first (and second) step
1. Make sure that everyone in your house knows about the new restrictions and understands the rules of the house, this applies to children, domestic workers, garden staff, workmen and visitors to your house.
2. Be mindful of how you live, most water saving tips are simply common sense.
Cleaning and washing
3. If you are running off water to get to the hot water, run that water into a bowl or a jug. This is potable water (ie drinkable) so don’t waste it. Use it to fill your kettle, ice trays, water dispensers or place the bowl of cold water next to the sink, use this for rinsing vegetables and fruit, one bowl should last all day, and once you are finished with it, use it to water plants or fill your toilet cistern.
4. Run a sink of hot water, with soap and use that to wash your hands, and dishes while you are cooking.
5. Re-use grey water where possible. The water used to wash dishes (from your sink or dishwasher is considered “black water”. It is too full of grease and bacteria to be use in the garden, but water from washing vegetables, cooking and your washing machine can all be used on the garden). This grey water can be diverted directly from the outlet pipe, or using a grey water system (which collects it in a tank and pumps it out). If you are using your washing machine water, make sure to select the appropriate detergent and do not use water that has been used to wash nappies as this water will contain high levels of bacteria.
6. Use buckets and bowls instead of the sink for washing clothes, vegetables etc. It makes it easy to carry the water outside to use on the garden or use it in your toilet cistern.
7. Do not pre-rinse dishes before washing them in the dishwasher.
8. Do not wash recycling items before sending them to the depot, unless necessary (by which I mean smelly or would attract pests). If you do have to rinse recycling items, do it in your dish washing water once you have finished washing your dishes so as not to waste further water.
Cooking and food preparation
9. Do not rinse hands, or vegetables etc under running water.
10. Do not waste cooking water, if you have used water to boil eggs or vegetables, set it aside to cool and use it in the garden.
11. Grow your own food. Again, this doesn’t sound like the obvious solution (because you need to water and nurture the plants) but think of it this way, rather than wasting water (even grey water) on watering a lawn (which could look beautiful if we had enough water, which we don’t so it just looks patchy and brown and doesn’t give you much in return). Plant a patch of vegetables or use pots which are easier to water, use your grey water to nurture that patch, and see the return on your investment in the form of vegetables.
12. Save all your kitchen scraps and start a compost heap (or even better start a worm farm). Compost is a great mulch, and can improve soil quality by preventing evaporation from the soil, reducing the amount of water needed in the garden.
13. Consider the “water footprint” of your foods. In general vegetables use far less water to produce than food stuffs higher up the food chain. Tomatoes for example use 184 litres of water to make 1 kg of tomatoes, where beef can take up to 42 000 litres to make 1 kg of beef. Time to embrace meat free Monday! (Good for your wallet, waistline AND good for the environment).
14. Pre-washed vegetables (and salad) may sound like the perfect solution (you don’t need to wash it yourself) but in the greater scheme of things, it uses more water to pre-wash than is does to wash it yourself. Manufacturers wash the item three times before packaging it (using far more water than you would have used if you had washed it yourself, and incidentally they add chlorine to the water to ensure reduction of contaminants so you can bet your bottom dollar they don’t re-use that water). Also, once vegetables have been washed they do not keep as long as unwashed vegetables, so there is more food waste related to pre-washed. How many quarter full bags of salad greens have you thrown away in your lifetime?
15. Bottled water – just stop. Stop buying it! It takes 7 litres of water to manufacture the plastic bottle for an individually packaged water bottle. South Africa has one of the safest water supplies in the world, so get yourself a nice reusable glass bottle and fill it up! (On a side note, only about 12% of those plastic bottles are ever recycled). If you have your heart set on spring water (and you live in Cape Town) head down to Newlands.
Newlands Brewery has built a spring water collection point on the corner of Letterstedt Road and Main Road, Newlands, where members of the public can come to collect spring water, free of charge. The collection point is open daily from 6am 9pm.
16. Hand sanitiser and paper plates are another example of “false economies”. At first glance it may seem to save water (no need to wash dishes, or rinse hands) but in reality, the water footprint (and environmental impact) make them far more water guzzling than simply washing up your plate and then washing your hands in the water afterwards!
17. Drop the takeaway coffee. A shocking 200 litres of water is used to make a single takeaway latte (and its container). Time for a re-usable cup.