1001 water-wise ways: Cape Town, take a bow

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Dear middle-class Capetonians,

I'm poring over the latest dam reports, provided by the reliable ShowMePaarl website (if you haven't bookmarked this site as a source for clear, intelligent and truthful reporting on our water situation, do it now). It takes me a while to figure out the pleasingly complex graphs, but they're carefully explained, and right now, while it's not good news yet, I am SO proud of us.

I was telling friends how chuffed I was to see the drop in household water use, and everyone shrieked "Don't write a blog about how well we're doing, we'll relax and go back to taking twenty-minute showers!" Ha. I don't think so -- we're not that dim. I think many, maybe even most former water guzzlers understand that our situation remains grave, and that it's not going to be resolved any time soon, no matter how much rain falls this winter.

The graphs in the dam report above make it clear that while the wonderful rains (falling in the catchment areas, praise be) are helping (we're at just over 23% of storage capacity at the moment, slightly up from this time last year), what is really making the difference is our water-saving behaviour. It's not the little bit of extra water that's helping so much: it's how much less we're using of the little water we do have. Scroll down to the graph in the report with all the red, yellow and blue. That blue swathe is the impact of our water-frugal behaviour. Impressive, no? It may be my imagination (I hope not), but we seem to be working in partnership with the life-saving stuff falling from the skies, as opposed to squawking "More! More!" from the cuckoo-nests we inhabit.



It's worth noting that nowhere else in the world has a middle-class urban population cut its domestic water consumption so swiftly and dramatically. Not Melbourne, not even Sao Paulo AFTER its taps ran dry, and most certainly not California, which has taken four years to get its average water consumption down from 85 GALLONS per person per day to 60 GALLONS (a ridiculously lavish 227 litres per day!!). Yes, you may now pause to feel smug for a minute, all you 50-litre-a-day users. The California target, during their recent prolonged and devastating drought, was to cut water use by twenty per cent. We've cut ours, in a year, by sixty per cent.

But (and you knew this was coming) are we out of the woods yet? Hell, no. We are unlikely EVER to be out of the woods again. The woods are where we live now. So we need to keep on keeping on: saving every drop, harvesting whatever we can, begrudging every turn of the tap. On the days when I feel grumbly about the extra water chores, I remind myself that this is how most people live; fetching, carrying, heating and disposing of all the water their family uses.

Some things now come automatically; some we're still getting used to. Now that rain IS falling, many of us are getting to grips with the bulky green lifesavers standing in our yards, and they can take some getting used to. Am brewing a piece on how to love, live with and even share your rainwater tank(s). But now I must put on lipstick and go and launch my little water book with a splash.

One last thing for today: Tom Brown, who does the dam and water reports I rely on most, you get not only a bow and multiple curtain calls, but a huge bouquet of (waterwise) blomme. Thank you for your sterling service to your fellow citizens.

Helen Moffett