Water is a natural resource on which all living matter depends. While freely available in many natural environments, in human settlements potable (drinkable) water is less accessible. Demand often exceeds supply, and there are significant costs in getting water from the natural environment to the tap in an acceptable form.
Fresh water is a scarce and critical resource. Less than 1% of water on earth is easily accessible and fresh. Most of our water is sea water, with some fresh water found underground and frozen in icecaps. Worldwide, the lack of access to fresh drinking water and sanitation is a growing problem. Available drinking water is a basic need that we cannot survive without for longer than seven days. Plenty of fresh water is also required to produce the food, goods and services we use and manufacture daily.
With the threat of climate change likely to increase water scarcity even further, it is very important for us to understand our role in protecting natural water systems, and to conserve our precious water supplies.
Why is water conservation important?
The main water issues facing us are as follows:
- The world’s supply of available fresh water is decreasing due to rapid urbanisation.
- South Africa is a naturally dry and water-stressed country with below average rainfall.
- We can expect increasing water shortages with more severe drought and flooding due to climate change.
- Supplying fresh drinking water to our growing population is complex and costly.
- Our rivers, wetlands and estuaries are threatened by development, pollution and alien vegetation.
What can we do?
Here is a list of practical guidelines to conserve water, reduce water wastage, and protect our supplies:
- Read your water meter and know how much water you use monthly.
- Conduct a water audit at home to determine where you use the most water.
- Check for and fix all leaks or dripping taps.
- Fit water-efficient showerheads and tap fixtures in your home.
- Install water-efficient or dual-flush toilet systems.
- Avoid watering your garden between 10:00 and 16:00.
- Attach an automatic shut-off spray fitting to your garden hosepipe.
- Install a drip irrigation system instead of using a sprinkler to water your garden.
- Use the economy cycle on your dishwasher and washing machine.
- Do not use automatic top-up systems for your swimming pool.
- Use a pool cover to prevent evaporation (ensure necessary precautions to avoid drownings).
- Recycle greywater from the bathroom for watering your garden and plants.
- Install a greywater recycling system in your home.
- Do not hose down hard surfaces or paved areas with potable water.
- Wash your car on a grassed area, not in your driveway or in the road.
- Divert swimming pool backwash into the sewer only, not into the stormwater drain.
- Do not throw solid objects down the toilet or into the stormwater drain.
- Do not pour toxic paint, solvents, chemicals, poisons or pesticides into stormwater or sewer drains.
- Lay permeable paving around your home to encourage natural rainwater filtering and drainage.
- Install rainwater harvesting tanks to store water for use in your garden and house.
- Design a roof garden to capture rainwater and manage stormwater or sewer runoff naturally.
- Plant indigenous water-wise gardens, i.e. gardens that need less water.
- Identify and remove invasive alien vegetation from your garden and local wetland.
- Protect and keep your local freshwater ecosystems pollution-free.
Information taken from the Smart Living Handbook.
Download the complete Water Section from the Smart Living Handbook.