Thanks for a fabulous magazine that truly raises the bar with every issue, bringing its readers the best and most relevant content, ensuring we always stay interested.
I am writing after reading From The Editor (July 2017) regarding the terrible drought you are having in the south. It’s refreshing to read of all the things people and households do and attempt to do in order to alleviate the stress on an already strained water system.
Ever since primary school, all my science teachers would repeat the same environmentally conscious rhetoric of reusing, reducing and recycling. The use of grey water in veg gardens, buckets in the showers, bricks/soda bottles in the toilet cistern and such were always explained to us as ways in which we could help conserve water.
More and more I am seeing advertised grey water systems, rainwater capture systems and the like, which will make the whole act of conserving water as easy as spending a couple of thousand rand. I do try not to be cynical in life, but I have always wondered about the actual benefit that these products and practices bring to the table. Apart from actually using less, how much do these systems actually help? From a purely financial point of view it will surely take a while (if ever) for them to pay for themselves. But from an environmental/ conservation point of view, I am not so sure any more.
By reusing grey water, we capture water before it goes to the sewer system and to the wastewater treatment plant. What actually happens to water being treated there? Does it re-enter the clean water system, or is the treated water returned to the area’s main water supply such as the Vaal Dam (for us) or similar? In such a case I would argue that we are actually doing the opposite of saving, because watering a garden (regardless of where the water comes from) actively removes water from the potable store.
When it comes to capturing rain from gutters, I wonder similar things. We are removing water that would otherwise either end up in the garden by itself or end up in the drain system of the city. Are we not denying some other system downstream its water by using it for ourselves?
It needs to be emphasised that I do not question the effectiveness of plainly using less water. Showers over baths, quicker showers or even military showers in the extreme all have markedly big differences. However, it feels to me like many people are adopting a fad without really understanding the effect and/or the effectiveness.
I would like to one day open up a similar debate on the use of geyser blankets. My opinion is that a geyser that needs a blanket is severely faulty and a simple blanket will not help. But that’s a topic for another time. DANIËL LOUW PRETORIA