1001 water-saving ways: some feel-good stuff

My friends fancy themselves as comedians. They're coming up with suggestions for a name for my water-saving blogs that include "Jugs" (this person got a very beady look), "The Bucket List" (I rather like this one), "The Think Tank" (also "Everything but the Kitchen Sink"), and my personal fave so far, "Fifty Shades of Greywater". But I'll stick with my Arabian Nights reference for now, especially as the water-saving tips are pouring in such vast quantities, we may even reach 1001 tips. It's something to aim for, anyway. Thanks to all who are sending -- I am so grateful. I think I'll do a regular round-up/recap of tips received so far, and number them, so watch this space.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking some more about partnerships and crisis and community. I was touched to get an email from a lovely young friend currently living overseas on a student budget, who wanted to know what practical help she could offer, at a distance, to local NGOs whose jobs are going to be made much more difficult by the water crisis. This at the same time as I've been noticing that a lot of tips I'm being sent involve buying gadgets that not many will be able to afford. (And once again, it's shaming that a lot of the clever devices that the middle classes associate with jolly camping holidays would make life so much easier for those whose daily reality involves queuing for water or coping without electricity.)

I know almost everyone is being hammered by the recession, budgets are cut to the bone, businesses are struggling, but a really nice idea would be to find a local NGO and pledge to make a water-saving contribution for the next six months or more. Pick one small enough for your contribution to make a real difference. Talk to the staff to find out what they need. If it's a creche or similar, commit to a monthly donation of disposable nappies, or wet wipes (see link at the end of this blog) or hydration salts or strong plastic containers (smaller is better -- have you tried LIFTING a full 25-litre container?). The same goes for organisations serving the elderly, those with physical and intellectual disabilities, and more.

I've found just a sampling of goods you could donate to suit a fair range of pockets. For the costlier, maybe businesses could step up. I'm in love with the electric bucket I found via MissMelissaWrites, at R165. This could go to almost anyone who needs to heat (harvested) water, although maybe not suitable for where there are a lot of kids in a small space, in case they pull it over.

Then I got tempted by a Sputnik electricity-free washing machine, but my canny friends Fiona and Patsy explained I could get near-identical results using a hard-sided, sealable cooler box. Here's the first one I pulled off the web,* although I want a much smaller one, about 10-litre capacity. Pour in 5 litres of hot water, add detergent, put in the dirty clothes (don't fill all the way to the top) and stir with a wooden spoon. Then seal the lid (make sure it's absolutely tight) and then toss the box around if you're feeling strong -- in Patsy's version, you put it in your car while you run your errands, and this gives the contents a good laundering -- Patsy must have nifty cornering skills. Apparently the pressure caused by the lid-seal and the trapped heat do the job. After a few hours, pour out the water (save for flushing), add clean rinse water, repeat. Water used: ten litres, compared with anything between 40 and 70 for a machine wash. I guess if you have a washing machine, you could then put the wet clothes into that to spin, or hang them on the line and shove your pot plants underneath to catch the drips (I got this last idea from someone called Cindi). Meanwhile, order a Sputnik anyway (looks like there's a waiting-list), and donate it to an NGO or vulnerable family when it arrives.

Then there's this gadget suggested by my clever sister -- basically a garden sprayer that you fill with warm water for a 5-litre shower. (This is the first one Google took me to.)* For those nursing the frail, this looks like it would be really helpful: you could sit someone in a plastic chair in the shower, and give them an all-over rinse this way.

Water storage: it's a dilemma, as discussed yesterday. Even if tankers deliver to NGOs and vulnerable households, where is this water going to be kept, AND in a hygienic state? Donate water tanks by all means, but these "Hippo" rollers can be moved around a lot more easily, and take up less room. Not cheap, but will apparently last a lifetime.

But this is my dream item, for those NGOs that have a little bit of open ground, and provide shelter and assisted living for elders, those using wheelchairs, children with disabilities and so on. The price tag is a hefty R22 000, but people with disabilities already have so many assaults on their dignity, especially regarding their rights to toilet access. I am deeply worried about the impact that Day Zero, or indeed the drastic water-saving measures we now have to implement, will have on them. Obviously, consult with those who would have to provide the maintenance and composting (or offer to do it yourself), and find out if a gift like this would indeed be helpful and appropriate. But if you have deep pockets, pleeeeeease...

A friend was wondering: what if she bought all these water-saving devices and Day Zero never came? She figured that first, we are NEVER going to be able to go back to our wasteful ways. Anything can that reduce our water usage is going to be valuable for the foreseeable future. Second, if (for instance) she goes back to using her washing-machine one day, there are many who will be thrilled to take her Sputnik off her hands. Remember, for many poor South Africans, Day Zero is already a lived reality: one that is not going away any time soon. Third, if spending a bit on these items now delays the onset of Day Zero, then it's a no-brainer.

The list of 30 water-saving tips circulating on social media I mentioned yesterday : I have tracked down the author of an almost identical list, and will be featuring them soon, but in the meantime, as a wrap-up feel-good tip, she sent me this link to a recipe for homemade, enviro-friendly wet wipes. It looks so soothing, as well as fun for cooks and crafty types -- thank you, Kate Noir.

* BTW: when I post links, esp to products, I'm not advertising or making recommendations: people send me links, or I google stuff, then slap in the first thing I find that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. You're advised to do your own product research: items posted here are to give you ideas.


Helen Moffett