Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

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

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