Every time it Rains we Waste Water
That’s why all South Africans should think rainwater harvesting when we think water conservation
Cities all over the world are facing significant water shortages, creating a perfect storm for innovation in water conservation and increased consumer environmental education. The City of Cape Town is also seeking out new ways to manage its water, having recently completed a desalination feasibility study. “But,” says Rod Cairns, chairman of JoJo Tanks, South Africa’s leading supplier of rainwater harvesting systems, “should there not first be a focus on other initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting? “South Africans could soon be facing a water crisis similar to the current electricity crisis and this knowledge should encourage a new approach towards the way we use our other fragile natural resource, water.”
The City of Cape Town’s feasibility study was for a desalination plant that could be built on the West Coast within the next 10 years. It is estimated the project could cost R14.9 billion to complete, excluding the additional planning and design costs.
“In recent years we’ve seen significant strides in the desalination of sea water, with reduced energy requirements and lower impact on the environment,” says Cairns. “However, it remains a controversial solution because the energy requirements are still high and it’s a very expensive.“ Cairns suggests that instead of searching for ways to make more clean water, we should spend more time changing the way we use water and encouraging a new approach towards urban development. “It’s time for a shift in mindset,” he says. “We need to start at source and capture and store some of that rain that falls right where it is needed and we need to think about desiging cities, parks and gardens in a way that absorbs water better thereby helping to achieve balance in the natural water cycle.”
Widespread water conservation efforts through rainwater harvesting at source could cost a fraction of the cost of building the desalination plant and it would have a more positive impact on the environment. “The power crisis has made South Africans more aware of what they can do to conserve electricity. We need to give people more control over their own water supply with education around rainwater harvesting and incentivise them in their efforts,” says Cairns.
This could include offering assistance on the replacement of antiquated home appliances that use excessive amounts of water and subsidised rainwater harvesting systems. It makes sense when it’s proven that harvested rain can supplement up to 86% of a household’s domestic water use. If this system is coupled with a greywater harvesting system, the savings could even be greater.
“Rainwater harvesting systems could be as simple as a water drum under a downpipe or as complex as a huge-multi- tank, underground installation,” explains Cairns. “If engineers, architects and landscape architects work together early in the project, new buildings could be designed to incorporate rainwater and greywater harvesting systems. Including the system from the design stage is more cost effective than retrofitting the system at a later stage.”
Cairns believes that it’s more economical to reduce water use by changing habits, “Rainwater harvesting must be part of the greater solution not only because it is affordable and highly- efficient; it instills a responsibility amongst communities to share some of the responsibility of water conservation and empowers them with some control over their own water supply,” Cairns concludes.
DID YOU KNOW THAT
Harvested rain can supplement up to 86% of a household’s domestic water use and coupled with a greywater harvesting system, the savings could even be greater.
DID YOU KNOW THAT
Stored water can be used for showers, baths, flushing toilets and even in the laundry. It is also perfect for washing the car and the pets and topping up the pool and the fishpond!