Play your part and fight the drought: how to save water at home

water saving articleFixing a dripping tap can save up to 550 litres of water a week – that’s 2 200 litres a month, and a whopping 28 600 litres a year, from a single tap. (Image: Mary Alexander)

South Africa is facing one of its driest summers in years, with drought hitting many regions of the country. In response, a number of municipalities have introduced restrictions to save water. Here are some easy ways you can play your part and cut down on the water you use at home.


• Fix all dripping taps, inside and outside your home. Fixing a single tap can save up to 550 litres of water a week.
• Know where the water shut-off valve for your property is, so you can turn it off if you have a burst pipe or other water emergency.


• Teach your children to turn taps off taps tightly.
• Keep an eye on your water bill. If the charges go up suddenly, you could have a leak somewhere in your home.


• Only flush when you need to.
• Don’t use the toilet for rubbish. Throw used tissues in the dustbin instead of flushing them away.
• Fill a 500ml water bottle (cold drink “buddy” size) with water, seal it tightly and put it in the toilet cistern away from all moving parts. This will save 500ml of water every time you flush.
• Replace your old toilet with a water-efficient one, preferably a toilet with a 9-litre cistern.
• Make sure the washer in the cistern is fitted properly to stop leaks.

ToiletDon’t use the toilet as a rubbish bin, and only flush when you need to. (Image: DirtyBoxFace, Flickr)

Hand basin

• Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Better still, brush your teeth in the shower.
• Don’t turn the tap on full.
• Don’t leave the tap running while you rinse your hair or shave.
• Wash your hands with the plug in place.

toothbrushAlways turn the taps off when brushing your teeth, shaving or washing your hair. (Image: Gabriel Rocha, Flickr)


• Don’t fill the bath to a water level higher than 20 centimetres – 10 centimetres is better.
• Keep bath water to fill your toilet cistern, for cleaning around your home – floors, cupboards and carpets – or for watering your garden.
• If you have small children, let them bath together.


• If your shower fills a 5-litre bucket in under 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-efficient model that only delivers six to 10 litres a minute.
• Don’t shower for longer than five minutes.
• Shortening your shower by a minute or two saves up to 600 litres a month.
• Switch off the water between soaping and rinsing your body and your hair.
• Put a bucket in your shower to collect the water, and use it in the toilet cistern, for cleaning around your home – floors, cupboards and carpets – or for watering your garden.

Shower headTest your shower head by placing a 5-litres bucket under it. If the bucket fills in less than 20 seconds, replace the shower head with a water-efficient model. (Image: Steven Depolo, Flickr)


• Only put as much water into your kettle as you need.
• When boiling water on the stove cover the pot with a lid.
• Don’t use running water to thaw food. It’s safer to defrost it in the fridge.
• Wash fruit and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
• Collect the water used to rinse fruit and vegetables and use it in the toilet cistern or the garden.

kettleOnly put as much water in the kettle as you need. Too much water will be lost to steam and evaporation. (Image: Benjamin Lehman, Flickr)


• When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
• Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
• Buy a water-efficient dishwasher.
• Fully load the dishwasher before use. Use an economy cycle.
• If you have already rinsed your dishes then run the load on a shorter cycle.

Clothes washing

• Only wash a full load of laundry.
• If your washing isn’t very dirty then don’t use the pre-rinse cycle.
• Buy a washing machine that is water efficient.
• Buy a washing machine that has different cycle options. This lets you choose a cycle that is more water efficient when heavy-duty cleaning is not needed.
• Front loaders are more water efficient than top loaders or twin tubs.
• Choose a machine with load detection. If there isn’t enough washing to do a full load, the machine will only use the amount of water needed.

laundryOnly wash a full load of laundry, and if it isn’t very dirty then skip the pre-wash cycle. (Image: Chiot’s Run, Flickr)


• We’re more likely to notice leaks indoors, but don’t forget to check outdoor taps for leaks.
• Wash your car with a bucket of water instead of a running hosepipe. Or use a commercial car wash that recycles water.
• Use a broom to clean your yard and driveway, instead of a hosepipe.


• During the drought crisis, do not refill your pool. A number of municipalities have already placed restrictions on filling pools.

indigenous plantsGrow indigenous South African plants such as fynbos in your garden, instead of thirsty exotic plants. Our plants are adapted to the country’s naturally dry conditions, and use less water. (Image: Zoe Shuttleworth, Flickr)


• Only water your garden after 6pm and before 6am. Watering during the heat of the day wastes water to evaporation.
• Adjust sprinklers to only water your garden, not paved areas or the road outside.
• Better still, water your garden by hand with a watering can or a hose pipe. Fit a nozzle to the hose so you can shut the water off when it’s not needed, and keep the water pressure low.
• Replace thirsty grass lawns with water-wise shrubs and groundcovers.
• Adjust your lawn mower to a higher setting. Taller grass shades the ground and keeps in more moisture.
• Collect rainwater from your roof to water your garden.
• Don’t water your garden on windy days or most of the water will blow away or evaporate.
• Grow only indigenous South African plants in your garden. They use less water.
• Water only when needed. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering.
• When you give your pet fresh water, don’t throw away the old water. Use it to water your garden.

Compiled by Mary Alexander. Sources: City of Johannesburg, Rand Water, City of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro