1001 water-wise ways: Everything AND the kitchen sink

This beautiful watery painting, "Mbashe Lagoon", is by Cape Town artist  Angela Briggs . Posted here with permission -- thank you!

This beautiful watery painting, "Mbashe Lagoon", is by Cape Town artist Angela Briggs. Posted here with permission -- thank you!

Right, a literary festival, several deadlines and many blessed glorious millilitres of rain later, and I'm diving into watery matters again. One slight hitch is that my camera has evaporated, and I take most of the pics for my blog myself. Ah well.

By now, the "tip jar" is brimming (I know, I know, I can't help myself). From "water-saving things couples can do together" to the inner and under-workings of sewage systems on estates (fascinating if a bit shudder-making), from the pesky business of handling grey water to "planting the rain", they keep coming.

But first an NB announcement for Capetonians; if you're within striking distance of Kalk Bay Books next Thursday, we're launching 101 Water Wise Ways (yes, the water book you all helped create -- your name might be in the Acknowledgements! Read an extract here.) The time is at 6 for 6.30pm,  Leopard's Leap is kindly donating the wine, and the passionate, clever and entertaining Leonie Joubert, journalist and green Amazon of note, will be in conversation with me. Come say hi!

Now, those tips: my dear friend and fellow author Paige (who helped me edit this book, and who is a dating columnist, among other things) was asked about romantic water-saving tips, and we came up a brilliant idea: for a first date, visit a spring to harvest water together. No outfit pressure (jeans and takkies are de rigeur), chatty people all around, the water topic is a great ice-breaker (oh c'mon, how was I going to avoid that one?), and if your would-be date thinks it's a CRAZY idea, do you really want to go out with them? Then you can go off for a drink/coffee/dinner with the glow that comes from participation in the public good, and several litres of water to boot.

From romance to sewage: the environmental group for the estate I live on has put together a detailed description of exactly how our "internal" pipes connect up to the municipal system -- most middle-class estates have similar systems. I know we're all letting our yellow mellow and using grey water for flushing, but this brought it home to me again: don't let paper clog up your toilet -- rather go Greek and chuck pee paper in a little sanitary bin. Even if paper doesn't block YOUR loo, it can create major headaches just a few metres down the line, as it were. Also: we need to flush more often, if possible, than once a day. If you're not producing enough greywater (remember the No 1 rule is not to use drinking water to flush), then harvest rainwater specifically for this purpose, even if it's just a bucket on the balcony.

And is anyone else a bit fed-up with the smell of greywater after it's been standing around a few days? I have two problems: the water that empties out the washing-machine and which is saved for flushing; and bath/shower water after it's been hanging about a bit. After a bit of experimentation, I find that a few good shakes of tea-tree oil into the water helps a lot. What are your solutions?

And speaking of greywater, if you have a family, or are elderly, one Retief Krige has come up with an extremely nifty device to help you channel grey water directly into your toilet cistern. It's a little wrap-around reservoir you can attach to any kind of cistern and remove again easily -- no plumber or plumbing tinkering required. Retief kindly offered to send me one to test, but I was already sufficiently impressed by the You Tube videos showing how to install it and how it works -- I imagine it would be really helpful for children or anyone with arthritic hands, or who might battle with buckets and watering cans. Also great for guesthouses and gyms -- at my book festival, it was a bit of a mission hauling my bucket from the guesthouse shower to the loo and then disassembling their cistern! If anyone has tried this product (the Waterloo Greywater Bank), let me know how it works for you.

And I know we're not out the woods, very far from it, but hasn't the recent rain been glorious? I'm even pleased to see weeds returning to the no longer desertified garden (how to tell when a drought is really, really bad: even the weeds die). Am I the only one who gets the most enormous kick out of doing the washing up in rainwater? And there: I just dragged in the kitchen sink.

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Helen Moffett