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Precious drinking water running down the toilet

As water experts gather for seminars to discuss the Cape’s crisis and pop groups record songs to help people manage the time they spend in the shower, thousands of litres of drinking water continues to run down the toilet.

Robert Ince, from Cape Town-based company Bob The Plumber, says there are many small and effective ways that each household can save water. He says his company is delivering flow restrictors to clients and being called out to install some grey water systems, but the public in general is “waking up quite slowly” to what they can do.

It will surprise many, and (please God) shock at least some into action, to hear that flushing the toilet is our second highest use of potable water. That means drinking water is running down the toilet, hundreds of thousands of litres of it.

A simple solution that every household can start implementing immediately is flushing the toilet with grey water at least some of the time. No system or installation is required, the total investment is a plastic bucket, and effort involved is minimal.

A bucket placed in the shower as the water runs to warm up and alongside the person as they shower will collect quite a lot of water even during the recommended two-minute shower. This might raise awareness of how much water is being used per shower and will definitely collect water to be used for DIY flushes.

When the toilet needs a flush some of the contents of the bucket can be poured directly into the bowl to flush it. One doesn’t even have to lift the lid of the cistern. Sometimes the water is slightly soapy but what is the harm in putting some detergent into the toilet.

Ince said flushing the toilet used between 6.5 litres for the modern cistern and 13 litres for the older model of toilet per flush. Imagine if every household in Cape Town used grey water instead of potable water for just a few flushes a day.

There was a time not so long ago when gardeners were using grey water saved like this to keep herb gardens and so on going, but Tokai mother-of-two, Anne Taylor tells us, things are so bad now that most people feel that is too decadent a luxury.

A simple attachment that reroutes water from the washing machine to the garden

Taylor, who described herself as a “water warrior from the Eastern Cape”, recommended a simple small attachment which she fitted to her washing machine outlet pipe that reroutes grey water to her garden. She warns people to get advice on the size of the pipe so as not to damage the machine in any way.

Ince added that attaching a flow restrictor to a showerhead is another very easy way to save water. The restrictors, which are designed to fit “99 percent of shower heads on the market today”, are small devices with a huge impact, he says.

Households that are able to spend a little money to save a lot of water could install a grey water recycling system with a pump, which improves household water use dramatically.

Another smaller intervention suggested by Ince is to get a plumber out to adjust the pressure regulation on the water supply. He said many homes were set to six bars, which meant that a lot of water was just running down the drain, when two bars was normally sufficient.

The City of Cape Town has recommended the implementation of stringent Level 4 water restrictions, which may come into effect from the beginning of June, which would ban all use of municipal water for outside and non-essential use.

Cape Town’s dam levels are critically low with only around 10% of usable water remaining.

– African News Agency

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