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
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,
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Rinsing vegetables and fruits - do this into your sink
bucket and then you can re-use the water.
- The old mellow yellow, flush down the brown has become
- ALWAYS cover your pool.
- 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).
- 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