Water Scarcity Dominates Our Agendas

Progress Namibia - Water Scarcity Dominates Our Agendas
03 February 2017

Windhoek, and the northern regions (our bread basket), have at last been getting some rain. And there has been much jubilation on social media. But this should not take away from the overall fact that we are in water crisis. And we are not alone. South Africa has been enforcing their water restrictions for months. In fact, South Africa is in the throes of the worst drought in decades. So all the discussions are focusing (at least around the general public) on us praying for rain and/or coming up with ways to either get water from somewhere else (e.g. desalination).

Many people, mostly from affluent communities in Windhoek, seem to still be watering their gardens and using their pools (this said, I have also seen the innovative ways in which families have been using less water in their daily domestic operations). And all of us are still emitting fossil fuels and carrying on the status quo. It does not look like we are making the connection to the way we live, and a limited resource that is vital to our survival. I have not heard one person who has made the connection of the water issue and climate change.

We also seem to think that this is a short term problem. Once the rain comes again, we can continue watering our lawns and washing our cars. Not only this, which is very limited to only water, but in terms of the whole system which is interconnected, such as: we continue to drive singly into work everyday, we continue to pump our air conditioning (especially when it gets hotter and hotter - which is extremely ironic). But if we do not change a few things very quickly, we will soon realise that in fact this is the norm, not the exception. We will continue to face massive challenges like water scarcity, dust pollution, top soil loss.

When it comes to water, we perhaps should have realised long ago that we live in a desert country (and hence perhaps we should have indigenous gardens and not a pool per middle and upper class household). The fact that we flush drinking water down the toilet how many times a day should be the biggest shocker of all! One of the big highlights that came out of the recent 6th World Sustainability Forum discussions (held in Cape Town recently), is that the best practice is to protect potable water supplies through reduced consumption, rather than increased production.

With this in mind, we have a few tips for you to reduce your water consumption without having to make many structural changes in your home. But think about how other actions of yours affect water more broadly (e.g. energy use, lifestyle, etc).
  1. While your garden has died back and we are getting some rain and it is now growing season, perhaps it would be a good idea to, instead of trying to get your grass to come alive again, re-think your garden towards indigenous plants and hardy edible species.
  2. Heavily mulch your garden regularly (cover the ground around your plants with dried grass, leaves, sticks, etc, which will keep the soil moist and healthy).
  3. Connect a pipe from the water outlet in your washing machine to your garden, or collect the water to flush your toilet! (We have a system where we connect a temporary pipe every time we do the laundry). Washing machines can use up to 50 litres per load, so be as sparing as possible with your washing! Wash cold, and on eco.
  4. Use bio-friendly dish-washing liquid and rinse your dishes in a bucket rather (we have a square bucket that fits perfectly in our sink). Use the water to water the plants.
  5. Use a bucket to collect water in the shower, especially collecting the water while you wait for it to get warm (the further your geyser is from your shower, the longer it takes, and you can fill up to a full bucket just for this water!), also collect while you shower. Switch the shower off while you soap and lather, and only switch shower on for rinsing. You can then use this water to flush your toilet (or for your garden).
  6. Rinsing vegetables and fruits - do this into your sink bucket and then you can re-use the water.
  7. The old mellow yellow, flush down the brown has become quite important.
  8. ALWAYS cover your pool.
  9. Sweep and dry clean as much as possible (the lazy way is just to hose pavements or use plenty water to wash tiled floors - but this is wasteful and certainly not necessary).
  10. If you are using (some) grey water to water the essentials in your garden, do so only before eight in the morning or after nine at night, to let the water sink into the soil with the least amount of evaporation.