1001 water-wise ways: the lipstick factor and the very cute tip
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During World War II, lipstick sales soared. There was something about that bright splash of colour that made folk feel better. It reminds me of something Shirley Conran wrote decades ago: that when undergoing a sudden and huge change in standards of living (e.g., bankruptcy, eviction, running out of water -- OK, I added the last one), try to hang onto one small treat or luxury. In her family's case, it was real coffee once a week. Having one little thing to look forward to boosts morale tremendously.

So as I've been preparing to jump off the water grid, I've been wondering what one frivolity I could keep without feeling too much like Marie Antoinette. And I'm afraid it's my hair. Having it washed, cut and dried is something I love. And I colour it. At first, I decided that come Day Zero, I'd crop it short-short and finally embrace the grey. But I confess I quail at the thought. So instead, I'll try to harvest enough non-potable water to allow me to indulge in this one thing: hair-rinsing at the hairdresser.

This leads to worry about how hairdressers are going to keep going in the months ahead: one I know is planning, at vast expense, to pump well water up a hill, filter it and run it into her salon. But it got us chatting about glass-half-full scenarios: I suggested that she offer weary Capetonians the chance to get their hair washed, not even dried, for a modest sum -- they could arrive with their own towel, and it would be one less drain on the groaning municipal supply. I bet she'd do a roaring trade. Being an angel, she's already thinking about ways to offer her space to colleagues, on a time-share basis: those dependent on premises with municipal water could temporarily relocate to her salon, say, from 3 to 8pm. A barber colleague could come by for the late shift -- a lot of schedules are going to be thrown out by water collection, and businesses offering flexitime services are going to hang in there and even thrive -- I hope. People need to keep their jobs in the challenging months ahead: the losses in the agricultural sector alone are already nightmare-inducing.

But all this got me to thinking about "beauty" routines, and how we can adapt these so that they're water-wise and hygienic. Y-chromosomes: now may the time to grow a beard, if you use water to shave. Those who shave their legs with soap and water: switch to waxing, if you can afford it (or go gorilla). If you have a high tolerance for pain, consider embracing the full Hollywood wax: the hygiene advantages this offers, now that we're showering only twice a week (WE ARE, AREN'T WE?), are obvious.

And now I must tell you something equal parts funny and horrifying. A friend decided that she needed lady-grooming topiary tools. All the research told her the shaving bingabobs for "lil ladies" were crap (this is absolutely true, in my limited experience), and the best by far for the job would be a small travel electric shaver for men. I'll let her take over:

So I make my choice and call the tannie who works at Clicks over to unlock the cabinet. The men's, being more desirable, are locked up, whereas the women's are just on the shelf.

"What kind of beard does he have?" she asks.

I explain that it's for me, not a man. She tells me men and women have very different skin and she can't advise me to buy that one. Instead she points to the shelf of pink useless lady shavers. I explain that I've read the reviews for each, and they suck. Still, she insists on pointing out each and every one to me. I tell her, again, which one I want. To which she replies: "I'm not allowed to sell it to you."

She tells me it's store policy not to sell men's shavers to women. Let me repeat: she says it's Clicks store policy not to sell men's shavers to women.

Why any store or store employee would think that a grown-ass woman can't make a purchasing decision for herself is beyond me. So, dear women, if you're ever in the market for an appliance the tannies at Clicks think is for men, order it online. Because no store, or store tannie, has the right to decide what women can or can't use on their own bodies.

Well, now that your minds are totally boggled (c'mon Clicks, you have some explaining to do), back to that NB issue of feeling fresh: given that we're showering ONLY TWICE A WEEK (looks round with basilisk stare), try using a shower gel or soap that's cool and tingly -- mint, tea-tree, pine. Or maybe something citrusy, but it's not really the moment for "honey coconut" or "amber musk".

It's a bit of a hop to the next topic, but I got a lot of laundry feedback, and I'd like to dedicate this tip to all businesses that require staff to wear a uniform or "professional" outfits for reasons other than safety. Inspired by the news that some schools are letting children wear PE or sports clothes to school to save on washing, I want to suggest businesses do something similar. I'm thinking especially of those (also schools) that require the wearing of white or "uniform" shirts that require daily washing and ironing if one wants to avoid that dingy look (or growing a little whiffy). This is cruel in the current conditions. At the same time, many families don't have the budget for extra clothing, especially not for their kids.

Here's a branding tip for free: take the money for the T-shirt you were going to issue at the team-building conference, and make one instead that says "[insert business name here] Water Ninja" (or similar) and give to all your staff to wear for work. With colder weather coming in a few months, start planning to issue similar tracksuits: you can wear those puppies all week without washing. Same goes for schools: let kids wear T-shirts with gym-slips and grey pants. And have a little pity: we have the two hottest months of the year ahead and strict water rations: unless your employers or pupils need to wear closed shoes for safety reasons, allow them all to wear sandals, flip-flops, whatever -- as long as it doesn't need socks or stockings. Or just make EVERY DAY "Casual Friday".

Finally, and this has nothing to do with either lipstick or laundry, here's the cutest tip I've received so far, from someone called Mara: "i keep all used teabags to wipe dregs, oil, foodstuffs from plates, forks, pots, peanut butter bottles ... many kitchen items can be cleaned by wiping all food gunk off with one or two damp used teabags and then drying with one or two dried used teabags. i'm uncertain about any bacterial health hazard but i have been doing it for a couple years now and (i think) i'm not ill or dead. [HM note: I especially loved this detail.] i sometimes reuse the cleaned item (same plate and cutlery for several meals) or else let these wiped dishes pile up for awhile unstinkily and have a marathon dish wash in as little water as possible. wet bags clumped together can get mouldy so separate them out. or maybe design a special teabag line? with used dental floss. and used ... toothpicks? ok enough!"

The last detail (the dental floss washing line) made me wonder if I was having my leg massively pulled by a rather sweet elf with a penchant for lower case, but I tried her tip, and ... it WORKED! Certainly with the wet/damp teabags, and it feels much better chucking them in the compost bucket afterwards than kitchen paper. However, when I tried the dried teabags follow-up, they fell apart. It may be that I lack elf technique. Let me know how you fare.

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Helen Moffett
1001 water-wise ways: testing, testing
Hot pink cooler-box washing machine.

Hot pink cooler-box washing machine.

So I've had a chance to test-drive some of the water-sparing devices that have been whizzing around our screens in the last week. The Institute of Good Housekeeping this is not, but you might like to hear about my new cooler-box "washing machine"; and my new garden pressure sprayer "shower". It took me a bit of tweaking to use these with maximum efficiency, so here are my trials and errors for your delectation. 

Lots of chatter about the Sputnik, the nifty gadget that washes your clothes sans electricity, in very little water, every drop of which you can harvest. Alas, the online waiting list got so long, it's now listed as out of stock. So here we go with my cooler-box. I described the basic methodology in this post, but this is what happened in practice.

I got a 22 litre cooler-box, in a cheerful colour, for R129 from the camping section of my nearest big supermarket. I boiled 1.5 litres of clean but non-potable water and put it in with about another two litres of cold water. Then I made a nice soup with gentle biodegradable (and cheap!) package-free washing powder from Glencairn's Wild & Waste-free Market and, er, Vanish Liquid, and tossed in a spoonful of bicarb for good measure. (Herewith a PSA from Stalwart Sidekick Sister: when trying this at home, DON'T use your regular washing-machine detergent. Apparently rinsing a zillion red and blue Skip granules out of a white tutu is no fun, especially not with Day Zero on the horizon. Pick a soap/detergent that doesn't foam. Woolite or any hand-wash laundry soap would be good. And lose the fabric conditioners, which you shouldn't be using in any case.)

Laundry powder in recycled jar from Zero Waste.

Laundry powder in recycled jar from Zero Waste.

I stirred my soup with a wooden spoon. Next, the clothes. I sorted as usual, pre-treated stains (this is NB, as I was to discover), and tossed them in, making a smallish load (see washing-line pic below), but I could have added more -- the box was only a third full. Don't fill to the top. I'd guess the temperature was about 50 degrees, considerably higher than my washing machine setting.



Next I sealed the lid carefully (this is vital), lifted the box in my arms and danced an awkward jig. This shake, rattle and roll motion is a great cardio workout (Pollyanna way of saying I was shattered within 3 minutes). So, as I had errands to run, I put the whole lot in the footwell of my car and headed out. Nothing leaked, and there was a comforting slosh-slosh sound as I went round corners. Three hours later, I poured the water (which was still pretty warm) out into the grey-water tub-cache and added about 3 litres of well water back into the box. This time I HAD to do the cardio workout: I wasn't firing up my car just to rinse my clothes. A few sweaty minutes later, I drained the water out again; it was still pretty dark, so I rinsed one more time with another three litres of well water (taking total H2O usage to around 11 litres, all kept for flushing). Finally, I removed the "DECOMMISSIONED" sign from my washing machine, chucked all the wet clothes in, and hit the "Spin" button. 

Now for the proof of the pudding as I hung out the laundry: how clean were my clothes? I am a famously messy pup; always spilling down my front, and I can usually rely on a snack lodged in my cleavage at the end of the day. (In fact, given that I wear my outer garments until they take on a life of their own, I am seriously considering getting a wipe-clean bib.) I was pleasantly surprised to find the only glaring stain that had survived was a mayo splodge on my T-shirt I had forgotten to pre-treat. So that's good to know.*

The white towel was already on the line, airing. Otherwise, this is what I managed in one load, which didn't even come close to filling the cooler box.

The white towel was already on the line, airing. Otherwise, this is what I managed in one load, which didn't even come close to filling the cooler box.

My assessment: I'd give this a C+ for cleaning power if you're not pre-treating stains first; if you do, I'd say B+. Withholding an A because this isn't suitable for those without upper-body strength or cars. If you're strong(ish) and have wheels, welcome to your new washing machine.

Additional laundry tip for knickers, via my clever friend Sally: once you've handwashed your undies at the same time as showering (see below), you can use a salad spinner to rid them of excess water. To which I will add super-bonus-hygiene tip, given to me by my friend Sue decades ago: if your knickers are PLAIN COTTON (no bits of synthetic lace and ribbon), you can put them in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time. This will both dry them out and sterilise them. Watch carefully; you do not want smouldering knickers. Well, not literally.

And now for my Garden Pro Pressure Sprayer, a present from my Smart Sister. Available from most supermarkets, nurseries and no doubt hardware stores.



Put this on your gift list pronto: I really liked it, although it came as a shock to have a HOT shower after all these months of bucket bathing. Put in a litre of hot water, then top up with cold water. I put in about 4 litres in total. Then I pumped that plunger goetjermachig on top vigorously a few times, then pressed the nozzle at the end of the pipe. Out came a stream of warm water. Ahhhh. You can wet yourself all over, soap away, then rinse lavishly, and it still uses almost no water: I had about 2 litres left over, plus if you stand in a cat-litter tray or basin, you get to save all the water. This does take time, and you have to keep pumping (this could be me being a klutz), but a little practice, and this will change bath night forever. I'd give this an A, and as I've said, it will be a boon for home nursing.

*OMG, am a radical feminist who researches and publishes on gender-based violence, and I am getting excited about STAIN REMOVAL. What amazing things Day Zero is teaching us, eh?

Helen Moffett
1001 water-saving ways: Round-up #1

I have a confession to make. Yesterday (deep breath), I had a bath.

Wait! Put down those pitchforks! I can explain! My tub is a water storage container, where I dump water harvested from non-potable sources or that gets sand or vegetation in it during the collection and lugging process. I'd used about half of last week's haul for bucket baths, laundry and flushing, and the remainder was starting to look a little, well, tired. Dead moths and cat hair floated sadly on the surface. So I made myself a vast delicious drink and got in with a book. OK, it was cold. But it was 25 degrees outside, and I pretended I was sliding into a pool. It was bliss, and I wallowed for nearly an hour, thinking about how strange (and wonderful) it is that so many people I've never met should be sending literally hundreds of water-saving tips and ideas. I keep reminding myself this is a marathon, not a sprint; we may even find that we're in for the Comrades. We're going to get water fatigue, especially once the chattering classes get past the shock of having to live the same way many of their compatriots already do. (I was no doubt smackably smug, taking well water to the hairdresser for rinsing last week. Until the gentle young woman pouring it over my head said, "Yes, this is the way we do it at home, too.")

But thanks to your generosity and enthusiasm, it looks like there will be tips for every single day of the long and difficult road ahead. I've already mentioned a brilliant list of anonymous hints that's doing the rounds on social media, but it's taken on a life of its own, and people keep adding to and adapting it, so I'll be doing the same. If I inadvertently "pinch" your tip, please let me know so we can wave gratefully at you.

So how about a recap of the best tips so far? I have a vague idea of hitting 1001 tips one day in the future, maybe with little icons indicating what they're likely to cost, whether they're short- or long-term, whether they save a lot or a little. But let's kick off with some revision first.

1. We need to change the way we think about water. This is especially true for those of us who have running water and flush sanitation piped into our homes. For millions of South Africans, water is already a precious resource that costs sweat and toil to collect and fuel to heat. Our middle-class expectations that water will gush steaming from our dozens of indoor taps 24/7 are going to look as wastefully OTT to future generations as Cleopatra bathing in asses' milk. Our Roman-orgy relationship with water is over. We need to start respecting it.

2. Go green, especially when thinking long-term. So much of what we consume thoughtlessly takes water to grow, manufacture, transport. Saving water feels easier if you're already trying to minimise your jackboot on the planet. Cut down on the plastic (yes, I know, ironic as we all hit the shops for water containers), recycle, reduce, re-use.

3. We should stock up on a small amount of bottled water for emergency drinking and cooking use, at the same time (ironically) that we should stop drinking it if we have access to tap water safe for drinking. It takes far more water to "manufacture" bottled water than just the contents of the bottle. Plus a lot of it is basically expensive tap water dressed up in planet-choking plastic. If you don't like the taste of tap water, filter it, and if you like bubbly water (I know I do), invest in one of those Sodastream thingamabobs. Etiquette note: take your own bottled water to parties. Keep your eyes averted from your host/ess's supply and your covetous thoughts to yourself. (Ideas on how to be a water-wise guest here.)

4. This is a bit doomsday, but lay in some water purification tablets, not because the City is about to let frogs start spawning in our scant remaining supplies, but because (as water harvesters everywhere are learning) it can be hard to keep the supply lines sterile when handling containers, buckets, etc, especially when the southeaster is kicking up dust. (I'm doing fine boiling my well and spring water before drinking; you may not want to take a similar chance with your elderly parent or sick child.)

5. Likewise, stock up on all the medical supplies needed for tummy bugs or bladder infections -- anything that might have you or your family members trotting more urgently to the toilet than usual (anti-emetic, nausea and diarrhoea meds, rehydration salts, Citro-Soda, probiotics, charcoal tabs, etc). Perhaps pharmacists could make up and sell little #WaterCrisis packs of OTC medicines for tummies and bladders -- would be good to have the lot in a single basket.

6. And while we're talking clean water (I discuss water hygiene here), assemble your scrub buddies now. My favourites are bicarb (I use it to deodorise grey water that's starting to smell stagnant, as a dry shampoo,  laundry agent and more), vinegar (for cleaning surfaces, soaking pots, deodorising) -- and along with these gentle aids, good old deadly bleach. I use the thick kind for the lavatory, the thin kind to sterilise kitchen and bathroom cloths.

7. I've been washing my veggies for cooking in well water, but am going to start using Milton, which is also good for wiping down surfaces where germs must be bopped on the head (inside the fridge, chopping boards, microwaves, etc). Remember: tummy upset + water shortage = perfect storm of misery.

8. You should be letting your yellow mellow (although in truth, you shouldn't be peeing into a toilet AT ALL, and here's a post about the insanity of piddling in drinking water), but for those who sit to pee, paper should be dropped in a little bin next to the toilet. You can sprinkle in some bicarb to prevent whiffs, or break a little piece of incense into the bin. I burn my paper in a special compost/fire pit; obviously figure out a system for disposing of it that works for your lifestyle (and hopefully, the planet) and doesn't involve burning down the neighbourhood. Your dustbin might be the likely candidate.

9. The mellowing can be hard on the nose. I haven't used it, but my Stalwart Sidekick (aka my sister) says that Wee Pong (the name of this product gets a special "in-your-face" award) is brilliant, works instantly and keeps the loo clean. (It's an enzyme rather than a cover-up perfume.) It's pricey, but she says it's worth it, and you can apparently get it from nurseries or here.

10. Put on your grown-up broeks and start researching composting toilets NOW. I erred when I first mentioned them here, thinking they were an expensive investment. I was thinking of those posh ones that have chimneys, solid and fluid separation systems, and the ability to answer emails. (This straightforward one with disabled access is still my favourite.) Apparently you can bang a rustic but perfectly functional one together with some wood off-cuts and a bucket. A friend made one with a POOL NOODLE. Another ingenious local writer has dreamed up a system that includes a large pot plant, newspaper origami and a composter (I am on the edge of my seat -- HA -- waiting to hear if it works). Google is your friend (this is one of the best links I've found so far), plus there is a rash of courses/talks/lectures/demonstrations (the mind does a quick boggle) on this topic breaking out all over social media.

11. If you have a washing-machine, check which cycle uses the least water. In many makes, it's not the economy or the speed wash, but the synthetics cycle. Laundry uses a LOT of water (anywhere between 40 and 70 litres per wash, yikes), so try to collect it all for flushing. Or replace your machine with this device (called a Sputnik), which has become so wildly popular overnight, there's a waiting list. Or you could try the cooler-box method (a report on this coming soon to a screen near you -- instructions for use in this blog).

12. If you're relying on your taps for things like washing up and showering, fit them all with aeration devices/filters/heads that slow down the water flow. Guesthouses drawing on municipal water should fit these immediately, if you haven't already.

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13. There are plenty of options for showering (including hair-washing) that use 5 litres of water or less, and also enable you to make use of harvested water (rainwater, well water, etc). You can stand in a child's paddling pool or builder's cement tray or bath and sluice buckets over yourself; you can get one of those camping "bladder" showers and hoist it up over the bath; you can use the pressure-spray tank (see pic above) familiar to gardeners and farmers (everyone who's tried this raves about it, and it would also be a water-wise way of bathing someone in need of nursing care). Or you can simply rig up a 5-litre water bottle and use it as shown here -- a beautician who surfs came up with this brilliant idea. Remember to catch all shower water for flushing.

14. It may sound off-track, but if you have a garden, set up a compost heap or pit. There are many systems, some involving worms, ash, rotating drums: I sommer dig a hole about a metre deep and a metre across, and dump everything biodegradable in it, including kitchen paper. Why? Well, there are a thousand reasons to keep garbage out of landfills and put organic matter back in the soil, but for now: washing up. If you are shaken by the notion of licking your plate, or getting the family dog to do so, then scraping your plate into the compost bucket after meals is the next best thing. Wipe with a paper towel (better still, the paper napkin you used while eating) and chuck that into the compost as well. A compost pit is also a suitably earthy place to dispose of blood (from a mooncup, for instance, or biodegradable sanitary pads) or vomit. Sprinkle a good layer of soil or mulch over afterwards. (PS: urine is great in compost heaps, but for reasons too complicated to go into here, this is not a place to dump your dump.)

15. If you are reliant on municipal water for washing up, and you have one, a dishwasher uses less water than washing up by hand. Treat it as a storage place for dirty dishes and don't run it until it's absolutely full. If you run it at a high temperature (60 degrees), this should kill bugs left by Fido's tongue (although human mouths are apparently filthier than those of most animals). But if you have access to harvested water, use this to wash up by hand, and mothball your dishwasher.

16. We need recipes and meal ideas that generate as little washing-up during prep and after the meal as possible. (Watch this space for one-pot meal and Buddha bowl suggestions. I am going to have FUN here.) Eat directly out of pots, pans and containers. Lay in paper plates and wipe-able chopsticks. Each family member gets a mug, glass, plate (for dry food, like toast) they have to keep going as long as possible before washing. If you need to cater for big events, these bamboo boats (used at a wedding I recently attended) are a great alternative to plates, and can be composted or burned.

17. If you have a chest freezer, now would be a good time to cook large batches of rice, pasta, soups, dhal, stews, curries and veggies that need plentiful water for cooking. Freeze them in microwaveable containers (my parents have used marg tubs for this purpose for 40 years, with no discernible ill-effects) and note that cooking in the microwave, if you have one, is almost waterless.

18. Stock up now on the following: dry shampoo, antiperspirant (I'm not into brand recommendations so much, but Mitchum is worth every penny), leave-in hair conditioner, hand sanitiser, wet wipes (remember that you shouldn't flush these NOT EVEN WHEN IT SAYS YOU CAN ON THE PACKET -- try to get biodegradable ones that can go in the compost or make your own), hand lotion (all the hand-washing gave me fearful itching at first).

19. This should perhaps be the Golden Rule: be a good neighbour. Talk to those around you, your staff. Find out what resources you can share (a bakkie, a well, muscles to help carry water, tech skills -- get everyone with a cellphone or an internet connection hooked up to a water-saving group or onto a WhatsApp list, and show people how to get reliable information: explain the concept of fake news). If you're rich or lucky enough to be able to harvest water from an unstressed source, identify those you might want to share with, according to how practical this is and how vulnerable they are.

20. If you're rich, it's not enough to conserve water: you need to spend a bit of capital on water harvesting. And no, I do not mean all those I've seen this week installing 5000 litre tanks and then filling them with municipal water, or buying 100 litres at a time from the water shops (you do know that's two days' municipal water allowance gone, right?) [INSERT VERY SKEEF LOOK HERE] Install tanks by all means; rejig your gutters; look out for every possible means of harvesting rain (yesterday I spotted a brilliant rain-gathering contraption like an upside-down umbrella, designed by a tentmaker, that could even be used on a balcony; here's another version); if you have limited space, but plenty money, get rainchains and these elegant pot-tanks. And once your tanks are brimming, scoop up the overflow and drop this water off at the nearest elderly neighbour, or vulnerable family, or animal shelter, etc. Note that these are not just crisis measures: we're going to need to do this for the foreseeable future.

21. Here's a bonus tip: DON'T PANIC.

These 21 tips are the tip of the iceberg (wouldn't an iceberg be nice right now) of ideas that have come pouring into my DMs and inbox. More (and more and more) coming soon to a screen at your desk. *Soothing video clip of the world's coolest owl here*

Helen Moffett
Being a water-wise guest
The reason I sleep in a cocoon of cat hair.  #NoMoreLaundry #TheseSheetsAreGoodForAnotherMonth

The reason I sleep in a cocoon of cat hair.  #NoMoreLaundry #TheseSheetsAreGoodForAnotherMonth

Yesterday, a dear friend asked if she could come and stay with me while visiting Cape Town, and it got me thinking, especially as I'm seeing a lot of anxious queries from people from abroad and elsewhere in South Africa who are planning on visiting Cape Town in the next little while. These all end with piteous promises to be "water-wise" and to "bring their own water". Alas, unless you're going to be constipated for the duration of your visit, and are able to haul at least 12 litres per day onto the plane, face it: you WILL be a drain on our terrifyingly depleted municipal water resources. This might not be the best time to be planning a relaxing family holiday here, and you may in any case not want to visit a city where in a few months we could be fighting each other in streets running with effluent. (I'm JOKING. I hope.)

But: life goes on, work trips happen, bookings have been made and deposits paid, guesthouses (significant sources of employment) are desperate to fill beds. Besides, we love you, and we want to see you. So what's to do?

Some ideas (and as always, please send yours): as someone who always hit the "economy" button on her washing machine and thought that was good enough, it has been an eye-opener to discover how much water laundry takes. So that's one thing to minimise.

Guesthouses, AirBnBs, etc, could put up banners on their websites and booking sites offering a discount or some nice freebie (good bottle of wine? aquarium or cable-car tickets?) to everyone who brings their own sheets and pillowcases and takes them home again to wash. Offer to make up the beds with the borrowed linen and strip them again on departure. Flat sheets and pillowcases take up almost no room in luggage; I found this out when I once hauled mine to Trinidad (true story). And plan your packing so that you don't have to do laundry while here.

This also goes for visitors to private homes. I've decided to ask my guests from out of town to bring their own bed linen. Remember the sleep-sacks of youth-hostelling years? Here's the first link I found with instructions on how to make one. Into the suitcase they go; even if you're coming with just hand luggage, you can fit in a pillow-case.

The spare bed. You're truly welcome to it, but be advised: this linen ain't getting changed any time this year.

The spare bed. You're truly welcome to it, but be advised: this linen ain't getting changed any time this year.

More ideas: shower and wash your hair before getting on the plane; you may not get another chance for a while (certainly not if you're staying Chez Moi); pack hand sanitiser, dry shampoo, a travel mug and wipe-able chopsticks, and try not to generate piles of washing-up. Don't leave food on your plate unless your host/ess has a compost bin or pit (or Fido's bowl) you can scrape it into. If you offer to wash up, find out what the protocol of the house is before merrily running a sink full of hot water. Remember that it is a hairshirt-worthy sin to pull a plug absent-mindedly.

Then there's the matter of being a good guest myself. I've prepared a pack I now take with me when visiting friends or meeting them in coffee-shops: travel mug for coffee (quite a few places offer a discount if you bring your own mug in); my own water and ice (both boiled well water) in a little thermos (so far, restaurant staff have been extremely grateful when I produce these); a 5-litre bottle of water from the local spring where I Dare Not Drink (it emerges from under a construction site; tirra lirra by the river it is not.) This last-mentioned item is because it seems a tad over-familiar to let my yellow mellow in someone else's loo, plus what if my paper is the proverbial last straw that blocks my host/ess's pipes? Plus it was extremely handy when I went to lunch this weekend and had a misadventure with an exploding Lindt ball that involved chocolate hair, face, hands and clothes. I managed to clean up everything without touching a tap or invoking that great middle-class signifier: wet wipes.

Have own water, will travel. (No municipal water was harmed or bottled water bought in the making of this pic.)

Have own water, will travel. (No municipal water was harmed or bottled water bought in the making of this pic.)

PS: You really are welcome to visit. Especially if you're a Rain Goddess.

Helen Moffett
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