145 liters of water a day? Learn to live at 50, just like we have to do in South Africa

The COUNTRY has been left high and dry this summer – with a severe lack of rain leading to bans and restrictions on boating pools and barbecues.

But when we are faced with having to limit our water consumption to an average of 145 liters a day – after the driest July since records began in 1836 – we can learn a lesson or two. things from South Africans, who were facing a bigger crisis than five years ago. .

For three consecutive winters, the annual rains do not come


For three consecutive winters, the annual rains do not comeCredit: Reuters
Queuing for water at a natural spring in Cape Town


Queuing for water at a natural spring in Cape TownCredit: Associated Press

I moved to Cape Town in 2017 and found myself in the midst of the worst drought the Western Cape province had seen in 100 years.

For three consecutive winters, from 2015 to 2017, the annual rains did not come and the reservoirs surrounding the nation’s second-largest city of 4.6 million people were virtually absent.

The mayor of Cape Town at the time, Patricia de Lille, came up with a controversial plan to tackle the crisis, dubbed Day Zero.

This is the date – scheduled to arrive in April 2018 – when the city’s reserves will be only 13.5% and therefore unable to supply the besieged city with unpolluted water.

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When it arrives, the government will be forced to shut off the supply to households and set up watering points on street corners, where residents will have to wait in long lines to refill containers under the supervision of the government. armed guards.

Cape Town is set to become the first major city in the world to run out of water.

There were genuine fears that such a disaster would materialize, leading to riots, epidemics and economic collapse.

It was a shock to residents of a thriving and cosmopolitan tourist destination. And they were determined to do what they could to avoid it.

While we all pray for rain, households are ordered to limit daily use to 50 liters of water or face hefty fines and metering installations in their homes. supply exceeds that level.

South Africans suddenly pay attention to exactly how much water they use for their daily activities. A 90 second shower takes ten liters, a toilet flushes nine. So that means most families take turns showering on different days and are limited to just one flush.

Pets drink a liter a day, brushing their teeth uses two, while cooking and preparing food requires a liter of water – if you plan carefully.

Cleaning the house requires five liters and the average person needs about three liters a day for drinking water, tea and coffee.

With a washing machine full of clothes and other items requiring 70 liters and a dishwasher with a capacity of 9 liters, most people cut down to one load of laundry per week and put the dishwasher on every three days. .

At first, there were a lot of complaints, but by early 2018, people quickly realized that the government was serious and the faucets would be turned off.

The thought of Zero Day and having to queue for hours in the sun to fill a tank at an oil tanker on a street corner got people into action.

Cape Town is about to become the first major city to run out of water


Cape Town is about to become the first major city to run out of waterCredit: Getty
Households have been asked to limit daily use to 50 liters of water or face hefty fines.


Households have been asked to limit daily use to 50 liters of water or face hefty fines.Credit: Reuters

Hotel staff unplugged bathtubs, set up special showers to reduce water usage and emptied swimming pools, all of which hit the tourist trade hard, but Cape Town was desperate. . However, the city mammoth’s efforts were not in vain. Day Zero was pushed further and further back.

Then, in the winter of 2018, the rains finally arrived. The reservoirs were refilled and the restrictions once feared were never implemented. However, the threat has raised awareness about the value of water and how much we need it.

The population still turns to thrift and doesn’t waste this resource, as they know Zero Day may not have been completely avoided – just pushed back.

Priya Reddy, then Cape Town’s communications director, said: “It’s the most talked about topic but it needs to be. It’s not a good solution – but it’s not a good problem.

“It was a big challenge and everyone was pulled together in the worst drought in a century, but we made it, and the challenge now is to make sure our water never gets damaged. waste.”

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There is a lot to learn from the people of Cape Town, who have managed to reduce their daily water use from 600 million liters a day to 450 million liters.

Above are some of their tips for weathering the worst drought in living memory.


  • For the toilet: If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.
  • Shower and wet yourself then turn off the shower. Soap and self-foaming. Then use the shower to rinse.
  • Put a bucket under the shower to collect all the water that runs out of you and pour it into the toilet for a free flush.
  • Wash your hair less often – hair adapts quickly and naturally.
  • Place a brick in your toilet’s water tank so it holds less water per flush.
  • Changing the shower head to another allows less water to flow.
  • Don’t use the sink to wash, use a bowl. You can reuse the water in the bowl.
  • Steam or microwave vegetables instead of boiling in a pan of water.
  • Only use the washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
  • Place wood chips or mulch over your flower beds to prevent evaporation and growth of weeds that take water from your garden.
  • Wash your lawn car from a bucket of soapy water and rinse with a bucket of clean water and a cloth.
  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth and shaving.

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