Finding ways to save water around the home has never been more important as South Africa is currently facing its worst drought in 23 years. It’s a heart-breaking situation as the demand for access to clean water continues to increase. Our existing infrastructure is simply not up to the job and as a result we are over-exploiting our existing water sources.

Pressure is being placed on government to improve the management of our rivers and dams. But ordinary citizens will have to make real lifestyle changes too, if we are going to reverse this situation. Rainwater harvesting tanks can be used to take advantage of harvesting all the rainfall,

And you can apply some of these to your existing home if you want to contribute towards the solution. So let’s look at all the areas in your home where you can start saving water.

In the kitchen

Do you know how many times a day you turn your kitchen tap on? Try to keep track of it for one day and you may be surprised. Kitchen appliances require water to run, and to be kept clean. So it’s the perfect place to start looking for ways to cut down on your water usage. This is how you can do it:

  • Purchase water-efficient devices: Dishwashers and washing machines make our lives so much easier. Some can use more water than they need to. If you’re looking to replace your existing machines, research before you buy. Look for machines that are not just energy-efficient, but water-efficient too.
  • Make a full load before you switch on: Don’t be tempted to run your dishwasher if you only have a few dishes to wash. Although using a machine can save more water than washing by hand, it only works if you fill the machine up before you switch it on. The same goes for your washing machine. Wait until you have a few more clothes to wash and then make a full load to get the most out of the water you’re using.
  • Plug your sink: Whether you’re washing dishes, rinsing your hands of washing your vegetables, don’t let water just drain away. Plug your sink and collect that water. It can still be used to water your plants or flush your toilet. Re-using water like this is the best way to get the maximum value from it.
  • Don’t let the tap run: While you’re waiting for your hot water to come through, don’t let the cold water in the pipe go to waste. Collect it in a jug and use it to fill up kettle for your next cup of coffee.
  • Install and aerator: A simple fitting with a mesh screen when attached to the end of your kitchen tap, provides a steady stream of air and water. You’ll still get a steady stream but use less water to achieve the same effect. They’re inexpensive, easy to install and effective.

A little thought goes a long way. Just being mindful of how you use water in the kitchen can help you see ways to save it. So think before you turn on that tap and make the most of every drop of water.

In the bathroom

Another good place to look at saving water is in the bathroom. There are many things you can do to reduce the amount of water you use and still stay clean. Try these simple tips:

  • Don’t bath, shower instead: A bath uses far more water than a shower. Although, when you do shower, try to keep it under five minutes. It really shouldn’t take you much longer to get clean. If you want to bath, don’t overfill the bath. You can also re-use your bath water for flushing the toilet or watering your garden.
  • Install a low-flow shower head: You can find them at your local hardware store and it doesn’t take much to install one. Your shower won’t feel any different and it will save you a lot of water.
  • Put a brick in your cistern: It sounds crazy, but it really does work. By displacing some of the water in your cistern you won’t use as much when you flush. It’s a cheap but effective way to stop good water going down the drain.
  • Don’t leave the tap running: When you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, turn off the tap. You’re letting good water go to waste; so leave it off until you need to rinse your razor or your mouth.

In the garden

Maintaining a beautiful garden takes lots of effort and lots of water. While these tips won’t make gardening any easier, they will help you to save water. Adopt these habits and your garden will still be beautiful:

  • Water your plants in the evening: If you water your plants in the heat of the day most of the water will simply evaporate. But watering later in the evening, when the ground is cooler allows it to absorb and maintain the water. Your plants will benefit and you may find you don’t have to water them as often.
  • Watch where you put your sprinkler: Don’t water your pavement. Make sure your sprinkler is placed where water is really needed—next to your plants. Letting water go to waste like this does nothing for your garden and is a complete waste of water.
  • Use natural and organic garden products: The water you use in your garden may eventually make its way back into the system. If it’s loaded with dangerous chemicals recycling is hampered. Use natural and organic products which break down quickly.
  • Plant indigenous: They don’t need as much water as aliens. They’re much easier to care for and much appreciated by the local insects and bird life. Group plants with similar water requirements together. You’ll be able to water those that need more water without drowning species that don’t need as much.

Cars and swimming pools

Taking care of your home extends to your car and swimming pool and offer you the opportunity to use water as wisely as possible. This is how to keep them in top condition without wasting water:

  • Wash your car using a bucket: preferably a bucket of grey water that you’ve collected from around your home. There’s no need to spray every speck of dust off your car with a hose. It’s better to use a bit of elbow grease than send a river running down your driveway.
  • Don’t overfill your swimming pool either: If you’re not using it all the time, it’s not necessary to fill it to the top. You can also use a gutter pipe to fill your pool up, rather than water from a tap. Just slide an old pair of pantyhose over the end to catch any debris from going into the pool.

Check for leaks

An important part of saving water involves checking your home for any leaks. It may seem like a small thing but over time a steady drip can lead to a lot of wasted water. This can also cost you money so it’s worth finding and fixing a leak quickly. Here’s how to do it:

  • Watch your water meter: It’s the easiest way to check for a leak. Read your meter and take note of the figure. Then don’t use any water for at least two hours and check the meter again. If there’s a change in the meter reading it’s certain that you have a leak.
  • Use food colouring to check your toilet tank: Add a few drops of food safe dye to your toilet tank and if the colour appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, you know there’s a leak.
  • Check the toilet handle: Another sign that you’re toilet is leaking is when the handle doesn’t return to its original position. That means the water keeps running and you should attend to it immediately.

Did you know that if a tap is dripping at a rate of 1 drop a second it adds up to 10,220 litres in a year! Usually all that’s required is installing a new washer to solve the problem. So never underestimate a leaking tap—and don’t wait to get it fixed.

The ultimate water saving tip—a rainwater harvesting tank

If you have the space for one, it’s well worth investing in a rainwater harvesting tank. They can easily be installed in your garden and allow you to collect and store rainwater for free. In green homes they can be installed underground. Connected directly to the gutters, they collect rainwater which can be filtered and pumped into the home for use in the washing machine and toilets.

Not only do they supply free water, they help to reduce the burden on the municipal system. And when there’s a water shortage, you’ll always have access to your own supply. Even ordinary rainwater harvesting tanks can make a big difference. Simply being able to water your plants, wash your car or fill your pool without turning on a tap helps to save water resources.

These are all simple tips, and if everyone used them in their homes, the water crisis facing the country could be reduced. Using water carefully also makes financial sense. As our demand for electricity increases, so does the price and the same is true for water. Finding ways to save on your water costs means you’ll have money to invest in bigger projects such as rainwater harvesting tank.

While the problem with outdated and inefficient infrastructure still remains to be resolved, reducing the demand for water will make things a bit easier for everyone. All that we really need to overcome is the way we take water for granted. Being water-wise isn’t just for the eco-conscious; it’s an attitude everyone should adopt if we want to avoid an even bigger water crisis in the future.