By Thakira Desai
As Capetonians feel the effects of the drought that has severely impacted the northern parts of the country in recent months, many have heeded the call and have begun actively conserving water. Over the past weeks, residents have shared interesting methods to reducing the amounts of water required for daily activities. Some have gone as far as reducing morning preparations to one glass of water, while others shared ingenuitive methods of reusing waste, such as the popular ‘grey water system’. But, while this may be one of the more serious droughts that the region has experience, it is not the first, and certainly not the last.
To understand ways in which residents can manage water usage during this natural phenomenon, VOC’s Breakfast Beat spoke to the
Commenting on the rains that residents met with joy on Friday, the University of Cape Town’s Dr Kevin Winter, said while Cape Town enjoyed fresh showers, the rains are only expected to bring approximately 5mm of rain and will, therefore, not do much for our water supplies.
“It doesn’t really do much for our dams, which from the centre of Cape Town are sitting some 100 kilometres away. It will only make a difference if the rains fall in the catchment area where all the dams are situated, because 98 per cent of Cape Town’s water comes from those dams,” said Winter, a lecturer at UCT’s Department of Environmental & Geographical Science.
The Mother City, not a stranger to droughts, having experience three in recent years, has in the past successfully been managed by the City of Cape Town.
Winter notes that in previous droughts, most notable the one experience in 2005, the City was able to overcome the impact of the drought on the water supply through promoting improved behavioural approaches to water usage, as well as implementing water restrictions.
“The water demand management and other water behavioural adjustments that they made, certainly met the target of decreasing the water usage by 20 per cent.”
He notes that while the data has as yet not been released to the department, he believes that residents have headed the call and taken it upon themselves to conserve the water supply.
In order for the impact of the drought to be reduced, Winter asserts that the catchment areas would need to be filled with significant quantities of rain.
“We are uncertain when it is going to fall and so we need these miracle rains that fell in 2005…that really enabled us to get through to the first winter rains. So it is a wait and see game.”
As a tip to residents, Winter encourages everyone to personally collect rain water.
“Capture water at source; over the last couple of hours I have about 3mm of rain and in my 5000 litre tank collected 400 litres and I use that to fill up my swimming pool, since I never use municipal water to fill it.”
Another tip he explains, is the use of grey water systems that directs water to the garden, allowing the user not to have direct contact with the water.
“What that is doing is closing the loop on the water that is discharged into your sewage system, but to actually use it productively. Since, a lot of the time that water is very fit for purpose. [So] it can be safe and there is very little risk if you are not in contact with that water,” he continued.
Winter further urged residents to conserve water as a lifestyle, also searching for unique mechanisms to reuse water and to constantly personally catch rain water.