Cape Town has a water crisis going on. Something like 50% of families in Cape Town have done absolutely nothing to make any effort in terms of water conservation which boggles the mind as the rest of us are standing in buckets and queueing up for water and getting all sorts of creative to try and stave off Day Zero just one more day, week, month…

One of the families that has been doing some pretty amazing moves to curb their water enthusiasm is my friend K-T and her family and so i asked her to share her secrets and help us all to do that little bit better. Not all of these ideas may necessarily work for you. But if you find just one more that does, then that is a good start.

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Hi all, we are The Pattendens!

We are a Cape Townian Family of 4 who are slowly moving toward a more sustainable way of living. The drought in Cape Town has sped this ‘move’ up for us. Sustainable living is no longer an option but a necessity. We are excited to be making changes, big and small not just for today’s water crisis but forever thereafter.

What qualifies me to write this post?

Our property’s water bill has reflected an average of 4000kl per month over the past 3 months. With 5 residents on our property (4 Pattendens + Our incredible tenant, JP) this equates to an average use of 26.6l of water per person per day. The generous quota of 87l per person per day is a thing of the past. As of the 1st of February, a new quota of 50l per person per day will come into effect. And as Day 0 draws near, a further reduction to only 25l of water per person per day is expected. So, let us share some of what we are doing to live fully hydrated and clean, within that quota:

· Recycle your water: The rule of thumb in our house, every drop of municipal water can be recycled!

· Catch Everything: Every faucet in our home is connected to a bucket or directly feeds into our garden via an extensive network of pool pipes. Catching or redirecting our water away from the drain, allows for us to recycle our water

· Showering: Showering once a day is no longer an option. We shower every second day and sponge bath in the sink every other day. When we do shower, we use the ‘bucket rule’.

· The Bucket Rule: When the bucket, positioned directly under the water stream, is full, that signifies our quota for the day and so the shower is switched off and not allowed to run again. Our bucket’s quota is 20litres. As water restrictions increase so our bucket will get smaller.

· 4 Clean People, 1 20Litre Bucket: As our bucket fills, my husband jumps in, rinses himself quickly before switching off the showerhead and proceeds with the rest of his hygiene routine using a sponge and the water in the bucket. When he is finished, our two kids and I have a turn. Our 1-year old sits in the bucket whilst my 4-year-old and I stand next to him and sponge down. By this point the water is cold so a final warm rinse off is a welcomed reward. By the end of this routine we have cleaned 4 people using just 22litres plus we have caught all this water in the bucket to reuse elsewhere.

· Brushing your Teeth from a Cup: 125ml for the morning brush and 125ml for the evening brush. Everyone wets their toothbrushes in the same cup of clean water, is entitled to one sip for rinsing, then dips their toothbrush in the remaining water to clean it.

· Going to the Loo: We practice the standard, ‘when its yellow, let it mellow, when its brown, flush it down’ which equates to a maximum of 2 flushes per day. Furthermore, we have put 2 bricks in our cisterns to minimize the amount of water used to flush…Each flush uses about 3litres of water now…this is plenty to get everything down!

· Laundry: Full loads only, limited to 3 loads a week (and trying to reduce it to 2). Our settings limit the water level from 65litres per 9kg load to 35litres. To reduce this number even further, we add the remaining shower water to the drum. Each cycle is estimated to use only 20litres of fresh municipal water. Like everything else in our household, our washing machine is connected to a bucket, thereby collecting the 35litres of water to use again.

· 1 Mug per person: Tea & Coffee still run fairly freely in our home but on one condition- that the same mug and teaspoon is used for every cup had between washes. We are considering applying this same principal for other crockery and cutlery too- one knife, fork, spoon, cup, bowl and plate per person, wiped down after each use and only washed after multiple uses.

· Handwash the dishes: Despite dishwashers being more economical than ever, there consumption is still very high. Washing dishes by hand is far more water savvy. We save even more by restricting our washing of dishes to once a day and only when we have a ‘full’ load of dishes. We also only fill the sink half-way (about 10 cups of water) and swap rinsing of dishes for drying immediately after thereby removing the suds without filling another sink.

· Buy your drinking water: We do not drink any municipal water. Each week we buy 10l of water from the grocery store and use that water for all drinking, cooking and cleaning in the kitchen.

· Have wet wipes on hand: We have wet wipes everywhere: We use them to clean up spills, spot mop, wipe down surfaces, dirty hands, dirty faces and even sweaty armpits.

· Be Holiday Savvy: Should you plan on travelling at all this year, please go out of the Western Cape. Use your vacation as an opportunity to ‘have a bath’ in another province or country, thereby removing pressure from the Cape Town water supply.

· Everything we catch goes into the garden: in many cases this is the third time that the water is being used.

· Water-wise Gardening: Our garden is massive and a labour of love at the best of times. None the less, we still have a thriving garden for two reasons: 1) Our garden is fynbos & succulent based, these plants are water-wise so cope in our dry, hot and sandy conditions. 2) The garden is the destination for all our grey water. We never draw water for the sole purpose of watering the garden… it is always grey water that has been often been used twice before reaching the garden.

FUN FACT: Most Succulents and Fynbos Plants have their own filtration and purification systems thereby cleaning the water and using it regardless of how dirty it is. Some plants visibly excrete the waste on their leaves. To help this process along, simply wipe down the leaves to remove the waste residue before grey-watering again.

Whilst we are excited by our current savings, we know that there is always room for improvement. Here is our current thinking about how we can save even more:

Sputnik Washing Machine & Spindel: we will be purchasing a manual washing machine which only uses 6litres of water for every 2-3kg load. 2 minutes of manually spinning the machine results in clean and fresh laundry in a short period of time using a fraction of the water. Partner your Sputnik Washing Machine with a Spindle Dryer and any excess water is spun out of the clothing and caught in a bucket to be used elsewhere. You can buy these products here:

Installing a WellPoint (DIY style): We are in the process of installing our own WellPoint and connecting it to a 1000l tank wherein which we will DIY a filtration system and add bleach/chlorine tablets for purification. This supply of clean water is suitable for human contact so can be used for drinking, laundry, cooking and bath bucketing. Another connection from the well-point into our bathroom will allow for us to fill our toilet too.

It wouldn’t be fair for us to claim all of these ideas as our own – some of these ideas have come from various social media platforms and others have come from friends in local townships where water has already been a shared and sometimes scarce resource. Through these discussions, I have become so aware of my water-privilege and remain teachable from those who have always only had 25l per person per day.

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Thank you K-T and the Pattendens, and thank you everyone else in Cape Town who is doing your bit and more:

Please SHARE this on your social media platforms, tag your friends, print it out and stick it in your neighbour’s letter box – whatever it takes to get the word out and to all get a little bit better at this stuff.

How about you? Have an idea or practice that was not on this list? Share it with us in the comments section below.

Come on, Cape Town. We can do better! We have to!

[To see how my sister-in-law Shana brushed teeth, showered, shaved, washed & conditioned her hair with 5L, click here]