Yup, even while it’s raining we should still be saving water! Maybe even more so. Here’s a couple of tips to help South Africa and the world out.
Rainwater can be used for just about anything—from watering plants and flushing toilets to drinking and cooking.
With South Africa facing a serious drought and some areas enacting water-use rules, water conservation has become a popular motive for collecting rainwater. In some rural areas where groundwater is drying up, rainwater catchment has become a necessity.
In urban environments, most rainwater is lost: Only 15 percent of storm water re-enters the ground on developed landscapes (as opposed to 50 percent on natural landscapes). The rest runs off or evaporates. A 2,500-square-meter roof can harvest around 1,500 litres of water from a centimetre of rainfall, enough to supply a four-person household for four days.
By that formula, a similarly sized roof in the Sandton Area, where it rains almost 70 centimetres a year (usually), could collect almost a full years supply of water.
Not surprisingly, sellers of rainwater catchment systems are seeing increased interest in drier places in the world. Jesse Froehlich, founder and owner of BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment Systems in the USA, says she has seen an uptick in business over the past year or so.
“The drought has raised a lot of people’s consciousness about conserving water and the benefits of rainwater catchment,” she says.
Rainwater harvesting sounds simple, right? People have been setting out containers to catch rain for thousands of years, but collecting rainwater in our thirsty modern world is a messy business.
Rainwater catchment systems can range from a couple of 55-litre barrels in the backyard to industrial-scale cisterns that can supply an entire building. But barrels will only get you so far.
If you want to use rainwater for flushing toilets or washing clothes, you’ll need a much more complex system. Most plumbing companies would be able to advise you but costs can range anywhere from R10 000 to R150 000 depending on what you do.
Perhaps the biggest impediment for rainwater harvesting is the cost. Large-scale rainwater catchment systems remain pricey and municipal water remains very cheap. Furthermore, cisterns require a lot of space, which can be hard to come by in dense urban areas.
But as the drought drags on in South Africa, the cost of municipal water is increasing, creating new incentives to scoop up rainwater.
So here’s a couple of ideas to do just that, right now.
Install a rainwater tank
Capturing rainwater to use in your garden is an excellent way to reduce the amount of drinking water you use from our reservoirs. Check with your water retailer to determine if a rainwater tank is recommended for your area.
Tanks are available in a various sizes and styles so before you buy, read our fact sheet on rainwater tanks to determine which tank is best for your needs.
Buy a water-efficient washing machine
If you’re buying a new washing machine, make sure it has at least a five-star water efficiency rating and four-star energy rating. Front-loading washing machines are usually the most water efficient, using up to 50% less water.
Install a water-efficient showerhead
You can save over 10,000 litres of water per person each year by installing a water efficient showerhead, (based on a seven minute shower average). Contact your water retailer for exchange programs.
Install a dual flush toilet
For a family of four, installing a dual flush toilet can save more than 35,000 litres of water a year.
Reusing greywater is a great way to conserve our precious drinking water. Take care to collect and use it safely by doing your research before you get started.
Be a water-wise gardener
Replace non-indigenous plants with South African varieties for a water-efficient garden, or consider planting a raingarden to capture stormwater or overflow from a rainwater tank.
Remember these simple water saving tips
- Take shorter showers
- Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth
- Use a plug in the sink when preparing vegetables, washing fruit or washing dishes by hand
- Use mulch or compost in the garden to increase water absorption and the moisture content of your soil