South Africa is suffering from a crippling drought brought on by the worst El Nino in decades, starting in 2014. Cape Town (south point of South Africa) and the surrounding areas have become drought disaster area at the moment as many farmers and villages do not have enough water due to poor planning of infrastructure, lack of proper water management & lack of water-wise use/education. The government has not built sufficient dams for the growing population and neither have they listened to the warnings that South Africa will become water scarce by 2025! For Capetonians this has come a lot sooner than expected: 16 April 2018! South Africans will have to start fighting against the worst drought to hit South Africa since records started in 1904 (second lowest annual rainfall was 1945, but the longest dry period was 1930-1933).
I recall that during the years leading up to the Cape Town #DayZero that my mom said one of her clients’ mother lived in Cape Town and the neighbours would still wash their cars with the hose during water restrictions! When her mother would tell them to stop, they simply yelled at her to mind her own business. It is very sad that a lot of people in South Africa do not consider that we are a semi-arid to arid country and that wasting water and hating the rain are poor reflections of how we perceive this valuable resource.
Seeing as the government and its officials claim that ‘they can’t help if it does not rain’ or that ‘the existing dams are too big, that is why they take so long to fill up’ clearly shows that rest of the country should not rest on their laurels. We as South African citizens will have to start doing our own bit! The little rain that we have seen in Joburg is not enough to start using water recklessly. I have diligently tallied our rainfall seasons for the last 5 years and here are the hard numbers for our area compared to the national and historical averages:
Annual rainfall ‘average’ for South Africa (which includes the desert areas) pre El Nino: 492 mm, which is half that of the rest of the world at 985 mm per year! Here is a comparative chart for monthly rainfall, from the World Bank:
My records for rainfall in our area during the main crop production months:
|Main Growing Season (Roodepoort, South Africa, 2013-2018, Aug-Jan)|
Here are two historical maps of precipitation from the SA Weather Service for more comparisons:
So as you can see from all the data I have provided above: our region, which is not even suppose to be desert is becoming desert-like during the main growing season. We as South Africans are in serious trouble if we think we can just carry on using clean drinking water for silly things; such as pools, garden water features, washing the car or pavement, watering the lawn etc. We all need to start working towards the ‘new normal’ of 50 liters per person per day! Our household is down to 71 liters per person per day and we are going to see where we can save some more!
Therefore, I challenge all my fellow South African to get to or as close to 50 liters as soon as possible!
My Non-South African readers can join in too towards the effort of saving water!
How? Well rain water collection tanks (we have 16000 L worth) would likely be the first step, please see my post about rain and grey water collection and use. The City of Cape Town government has several great resources on water saving in and around the house/office:
- Top ways to save water
- Water-saving tips/checklist to help avoid Day Zero
- Safe use of Grey Water
- Find and Fix Leaks
- Water Conservation: Smart Office Handbook (only pages 57-65)
- Smart Office Handbook: A Guide to Greening Your Office (full book)
Also see the affordable OneDrop product (R 89.99, 30 ml can purify up to 600L of water), which can clean water from nearly any source and has been made by our own Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-SA)!