‘Day Zero heroes’ halve Cape Town’s water use


Here is some good news from Cape Town. It rained last week.

A couple of light rain showers, preceded by bursts of thunder, rolled around Table Mountain and deposited a few millimetres of badly needed moisture on this water-starved city.

Residents celebrated with photos and videos and tried to capture what they could through the strategic positioning of buckets and containers.

Here is the bad news. The dams which supply this community of four million still dropped by half a percentage point last week, leaving them at the perilously low level of 22.1%.

The last 10% is not fit for human consumption due to higher levels of sediment.

The city’s water crisis is the product of a savage three-year drought and the region needs heavy winter rains to relieve the pressure on its dams. But that is not something anybody here can count on.

Instead, the people of Cape Town have done something remarkable in their bid to head off “Day Zero” – the point when the authorities will have to turn the taps off.

:: Cape Town introduces ‘world’s first water police’ after drought

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
Image: Cape Town needs heavy winter rains to relieve the pressure on its dams

Residents have slashed the amount of water they use in half – from 1.2 billion litres to 522 million litres per day – representing an unprecedented act of collective water conservation.

We found one of these “Day Zero heroes” in a modest looking house on the city’s outskirts.

Masha du Toit is a teacher who has turned her home into a water harvesting and recycling machine.

If it rains, Ms du Toit catches every drop with a series of large black tubs connected to her drain pipes.

Video: Water prospectors scour Capetown

“Actually, it doesn’t look so bad,” she said as she peered inside one of them.

“There is soot, smoke, sand and bird droppings in there so this is not drinking water – this is for flushing the toilet.”

She proudly showed us her new toilet attachment (which makes it easier to “self-fill” the cistern) – the dirty dishes storage system (so the washing up is done less frequently) and her bucket-and-container strewn shower.

“We don’t do this ‘two-minute shower’ anymore, we just do bucket baths,” she revealed.

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
Image: Masha du Toit has turned her home into a water harvesting machine

The cumulative effect of this do-it-yourself water regime is quite extraordinary.

The city restricts Capetonians to a thrifty 50 litres of water a day but Ms du Toit says her daily usage is around 15 litres, “plus a little bit for our fish tank – we do top it up occasionally.”

When you consider that it takes about 20 litres of water just to flush the toilet a couple of times, this Cape Town teacher is something of a revolutionary.

I asked her if she had become a bit obsessive about saving water?

“Absolutely, yes I’m completely obsessed,” she replied.

“In fact, if I watch a movie now and I see someone washing their hands while they are talking to another character, I’m like, are you going to close that tap?”

Of course, Ms du Toit is not the only water-revolutionary in town.

Bev Antoncich, the well-coiffured director of the hair salon Perfectly Pampered, runs special “bucket and jug days” at her business.

Cape Town residents have taken matters into their own hands to save water
Image: Perfectly Pampered hair salon encourages customers to bring their own water

Clients who bring in their own bottled water get a glass of champagne for free. Other salons offer discounts to their “BYOB customers”.

“It has been tough to get the whole thing going,” concedes Ms Antoncich.

“At first we were wetting clients all the way down their backs. We would give them a complete bath with the jugs. But we have it all under control now.”

Ms Antoncich says she has completely changed about the way she thinks about water and cannot bear the thought of any going to waste.

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“You know, I think it would be easier for us if we didn’t have to ‘bucket and jug’ but we will still be saving water,” she said.

“I just couldn’t let water just go down the sink hole again.”

From – SkyNews