Easy Water Saving Tips You May Not Have Thought Of

Jess Spiro

The Western Cape is currently in the middle of a severe water shortage, a drought crisis in fact. Basically, reservoir dams in the province are so depleted that they’re currently below 22% capacity, with just on half of that actually being drinkable, which means that tariffs and restrictions are in place to conserve water. Currently, the Western Cape is on level 3B restrictions but it looks like it’s likely that it will be escalated to level 4 at the beginning of June.

So, what do level 4 restrictions mean for us? In a nutshell, it means that the use of non-essential municipal water will effectively be prohibited and residents will be strongly encouraged to use no more than 100 litres of water per day.  All the same restrictions as before still apply – no car washing, no watering of gardens, no filling of pools, no irrigation by any municipal water of any means. The escalation basically moves the province into a crisis state and the steps in place to manage this going forward will be engaged. This handy guide by the City of Cape Town explains the upgrade from level 3 to level 4.

Level-4-Water Restrictions


We are just basically waiting on the word from the powers that be to say that level 4 restrictions are in place but there is no reason to wait really. If you aren’t already doing everything in your power to conserve water (why on earth not?) then you need to get with the programme and start now. If you are already being super mindful of your water usage, read on for extra tips – things that you may not have thought of.

Catch your excess water in the shower

While you wait for the shower to heat up, place a bucket under the running water to catch the cool water. This perfectly clean water that can be used for a variety of uses – fill up your kettle or your fish tank, or fill up pets’ water bowls. You can also boil, cool and store to use as drinking water. You can also do something similar in your sink by placing a small bucket or container under the tap. Throughout the day as you rinse your hands, glasses or whatever else, the bucket will catch the excess grey water and you can then use that to flush the toilet. Also, if it wasn’t already obvious, turn the tap off while washing your hair or shaving. Those few minutes of switching off will make all the difference to your water consumption.

Reuse pasta/ potato cooking water

Don’t just throw out water because something was cooked in it! If you’ve boiled potatoes, eggs or pasta, keep the water, let it cool and reuse it. Water that has a bit of salt in it won’t harm your plants and the nutrients extracted from egg shells will actually benefit them. Alternatively, you could add that water to soups and stocks later on.

If you order a glass of water at a restaurant, make sure you drink it

Some restaurants can throw up to 10 litres of water a night out as a result of guests ordering a glass of water and then not drinking it. And yes, the onus is on the restaurant to recycle that water as much as they reasonably can, but other than watering their plants, how else can they use a half-drunk glass of water? Instead, be sure to drink all your water, or don’t ask for a glass unless you’re certain you’re going to drink it. In the same way, if a waiter simply brings you a glass, tell them you’re not going to drink it and they can recycle it wisely.

Reuse a water bottle or glass

Keeping the same water glass throughout the day means less water required for washing it when you’re done drinking. It also ensures that you finish your glasses of water, instead of dotting half-full glasses all over the house, forgetting about them and then chucking out the old water. Also, if you do find old water bottles or glasses that have been standing, don’t chuck the water down the sink, use it to water indoor plants etc.

Did you know? South Africa is classified as a water-stressed country because annually it receives nearly half of the earth’s average rainfall. So, even when we’re not in a drought situation as we are currently, water awareness is ALWAYS important. Source waterwise.co.za

Don’t run the water until it’s cold – keep some in the fridge

The same rule applies for not wasting water while it cools down as it does for when waiting for it to warm up.  During warmer times of the year, the water that sits in the pipes can heat up quite a bit. Over a litre of water can be wasted waiting for that water to cool down. Avoid this and keep bottles or jugs of water in the fridge, it’s much cooler than out of the tap and an easier way of drinking cold water.

Think about water saving attachments for taps and showers

Replace your old shower head with a water saving one that will disperse the spray more widely and use less water. For your taps, you can affix an attachment that turns the water flow into a soft mist-like spray, offering enough moisture for you to wash your hands and rinse dishes, but won’t let litres of water run down the drain.

Use old water for watering plants or dog’s water bowls

Do you ever wake up with a glass of water on your bedside table that sat overnight and now tastes a little odd? Don’t just chuck it, either water your plants or top up your dog’s water bowl with it – he won’t mind the taste!

Always run a full washing machine and dishwasher

These machines are designed to be water-efficient – when used properly. Make sure that you run a full load and when it comes to your dishwasher, don’t rinse your plates before stacking them as this wastes water. Simply make sure that all bits of food have been well-scraped and your dishes will come out nice and clean. Also, make sure that your filter is cleared of any gunk and that you rinse with salt every so often so that your dishwasher stays nice and clean and you don’t have to waste more water re-washing.

Wash clothing more consciously

Think conservatively about running your washing machine. If you don’t need to wash all your pairs of jeans every time you do a load then don’t. Be smart about your washing.

Be water conscious when travelling 

Visiting a guest house, B&B or hotel in the Western Cape? They’re not exempt from the restrictions. Most won’t want to ask guests outright to actively conserve water but if you ask how you can help, they should be only too happy to assist. A bucket in the shower to catch water as it heats up is not going to detract from your stay, so be an adult and speak up.

Did you know… In South Africa a family of four can use anything between 300 and 800 litres of water in the home per day, whereas in some countries people use as little as  25 litres of water per person. Always be mindful of your water usage and think about how you can reduce. Source waterwise.co.za

Water your garden wisely – NOTE: NOT ALLOWED ON LEVEL 4 RESTRICTIONS

Sprinklers and hosepipes are now banned and you’re only allowed to water your garden with a bucket in the evening. So, instead of using water from the tap to do this, collect water from half drunk glasses, your shower and bath and to water your plants and gardens. Mulch the soil around your beds as this helps hold water or longer, lessening the need to water. Water your garden when it’s coolest in the late evening to prevent evaporation.

“If it’s yellow, let it mellow”

Let’s be honest, this one may be a little icky for some but it does certainly make a difference. Depending on how modern your toilet is, a flush can use anywhere between 6 and 14 litres of water. The average person uses about 35 litres of water a day simply in the loo. If you’re at home, maybe skip the odd flush here or there and save grey water to flush the loo.

If you see someone abusing water usage in Cape Town please report it. Also, help save water, report issues such as burst pipes or faulty meters.

  • Call 0860 103 089 and choose option 2 for water-related faults.
  • SMS 31373 (max of 160 characters)
  • Email restrictions@capetown.gov.za (water restriction offences only)
  • Online through The City of Cape Town’s Service Requests tool

For more handy tips and information about waterwise gardening visit waterwise.co.za or cityofcapetown.gov.za