Cape Town Water Restrictions: What does 50l per day mean?
Cape Town is in the middle of a profound drought. Rainfall has been below-average for the past three years and Cape Town’s
population is growing rapidly which means the water supply in Cape Town has reached critical levels. There is a real danger that the
taps will run dry in April. So other than praying, doing a rain dance or donating R12 billion for a desalination plant, what can you do?
I’m sure you will agree that restricting your water usage now is preferable to waiting for day zero to arrive when the water supply will
be cut off. Can you imagine what it would be like not to be able to turn on a tap? Or having to queue for water?
The City of Cape Town is imposing a 50 litre per person per day water restriction starting on the 1st of February 2018. Assuming that
you want to wash, flush the toilet and clean your clothes, 50 litres does not go very far. It can be done, but it means that you need
to be very aware each time you turn on a tap.
What does 50 litres of water per day mean to you?
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Here are some of the things you need water for:
- Drinking water (2 litres per day)
- Preparing food – rinsing & cooking (2 litres per day)
- Flushing a toilet (average 9 litres per flush, older toilets use more)
- Daily hygiene -Washing hands and brushing teeth (4 litres per day)
- Washing your body (and hair) (a 2-minute shower with a low flow showerhead is 20 litres, a bath with just a 10cm level is 30 litres)
- Washing dishes (a dishwasher load is 9 litres per load, handwashing dishes uses 3.5 x the amount of water)
- Washing clothes (56 litres per load for a front-loading machine and as much as 120 litres for a top loader)
- Washing towels and bedding (56 litres per load or up to 120 litres)
- Cleaning - wiping surfaces, mopping floors
So, let’s say you want to shower every day and do a load of washing twice a week and you have regular bowel habits and only flush once a day when it is
necessary. You keep your showers strictly to 2 minutes. Feeling virtuous? Think that you are using water sparingly? Guess what? You’re over the limit!
Sadly, 50l does not mean, 50l at home, 50l at the gym and 50l somewhere else. It means a total of 50l per person per day, wherever you are.
Extreme times call for extreme measures.
Ninja Water Saving Tips
Water saving tips for Laundry
Washing clothes is going to guzzle through your water allowance very rapidly. A front-loading machine load takes 56l of water or spread over a
week, 8l a day for each load you do a week. Doing two loads of washing a week is out of the question on just 50l allowance.
- Only wash clothes that are truly dirty. This means that you need to wear some clothes more than once.
- Washing your bedding needs to be cut down with only 50l allowance. Don’t wash all your bedding and towels at once. You might have room
for your base sheet and your pillow case in your wash one week and the following week find space for your duvet cover.
- Only use the machine when you have a full load of washing.
- If you feel the need to separate your washing colours and whites work with someone else in the house so that you fill the machine between
- You may want to buy a few extra pairs of underwear so that you are not caught short between washes.
- Machine washing uses less water than hand washing.
- If you need to hand wash items or soak something like a wetsuit, use a tub in the bath rather than filling the bath with water. (A depth
10cm of bath water = 30l, half a bath is about 50l)
Save water when you shower
Of course, you want to stay clean, but a strictly 2-minute shower is going to use a large chunk of your water
allowance, so you have a choice.
1. Reduce the number of showers you have by alternating having a shower with washing yourself from a basin of water.
2. Reduce the time you spend in the shower and the amount of water you use each time
3. Earn a gold star by doing both 1 and 2.
Shower at the same time as other people so you don’t waste water while you are waiting for the water to heat
up from cold.
- Shower with a bucket.
- When you switch on the shower from cold, catch all the water from the showerhead in a bucket until the water heats up.
- Put the bucket at your feet to catch excess water while you shower.
- Wet yourself.
- Switch off the taps.
- Lather soap over you.
- Switch the taps on again and rinse yourself off.
- Catch as much water as possible in the bucket while you do this.
- All the water in the bucket should be used for flushing toilets.
Every time you flush the toilet you are flushing 9l or more of water away. It may not be pleasant, but the mantra to
When it’s yellow, let it mellow
When it’s brown, flush it down.
Sometimes it will be necessary to flush, but before you reach for the handle, wait!
Check to see if there is water in the bucket in the shower. Pour the content of the bucket into the toilet bowl.
Brushing your teeth
Using running water to brush your teeth is a wasteful and this is a very simple way to use less water:
Use a glass of water to brush your teeth.
Pour a glass of water (as you get more practice you will reduce this to half or even less)
Dunk your toothbrush in the water quickly to wet it
Add toothpaste to your toothbrush and brush your teeth for as long as you like.
Use most of the water to rinse out your mouth.
Leave the last bit to clean your toothbrush.
Do you need to use water every time? Of course, you want to make sure that your hands are clean, but you can also do the following:
Use wet wipes if your hands feel sticky or messy.
Use a hand sanitizer for a waterless wash.
Okay, an easy win to help you stay within your 50l quota is to buy bottled water. Bottled water is brought in from outside Cape Town, so it
isn’t included in your allowance.
Many restaurants in Cape Town have removed pasta from their menu because it uses too much water. Of course, you can still have pasta, but
think about water when you cook.
- Instead of rinsing fruit and vegetables under a running tap, pour a small amount of water in a bowl and rinse the fruit and vegetables in
- If you are going to peel vegetables do you need to rinse them beforehand too?
- Use only the necessary water to boil food.
- Use as few pots and cooking utensils as possible
- Consider using prepared vegetables especially those that already come in a foil container ready for the oven.
- Frozen vegetables can be microwaved without any water.
- Cook with a friend to save doubling up on washing.
- In times of drought, you have permission to eat straight out of the pot. You are saving water by not using plates.
- Paper plates save water too.
- Line baking trays with tin foil so that they can be wiped clean easily.
- Avoid handwashing items as much as possible
- Make sure that the dishwasher is fully stacked before it runs.
The new water
restrictions are tough,
but it is possible to
survive within your
quota. In the meantime,
does anyone know a
good rain dance?