WHO IS USING ALL THE WATER?
Way back in 1976, British writer and adventurer John Seymour wrote a book called The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers, described as a guide for real and wannabe “downshifters”. Aside from a host of practical tips and useful information garnered from years of experience on farms and smallholdings, he came up with this thought-provoking paragraph: “The flush toilet is one of the greatest sins of modern man… It is a remarkably expensive way to pollute fresh drinking water, while at the same time wasting the very nutrients that are essential to maintain fertility in the soil. One pull of the lever and the waste becomes somebody else’s problem.”
Seymour had a point. According to Rand Water’s WaterWise website, flush toilets account for a staggering 73% of water usage in low-income households, and 37% in mid- to high-income households (no one appears able to explain the difference).
It’s clearly a big problem, not least in this country. Our planet experiences an average rainfall of 985mm a year, whereas South Africa receives just 492mm, or about half the global average – so we are officially classified as a waterstressed country.
A family of four can use between 300 and 800 litres of water in the home per day, according to Rand Water – a very large amount considering that many people elsewhere in the world use as little as 25 litres per person per day. In theory, says Rand Water, this makes it entirely possible to conduct daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, bathing, drinking and flush toilets with only twoand-a-half buckets of water a day.
By all accounts, the water shortage problem is getting worse. In late September 2016, the Department of Water and Sanitation urged all sectors of the population to come up with “appropriate preparedness plans” at all levels of the water supply chain to prevent the country’s dams from running completely dry.