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As spring teases new leaves from dreary brown stalks across South Africa, green summer lawns and the clean, fresh scent of long awaited rains seem just around the corner…

Or are they?

After last year’s drought, and with water restrictions in place in parts of the country, it looks like we’re in for another dry season.

Even if you’re already taking shorter showers, or collecting bathwater in buckets for loo flushing, it can’t hurt to sharpen up your water-wise ways. So whether you’re one of those top-of-the-class ‘already installed a greywater system’ types, or are just getting used to the idea of turning off the tap whilst shaving, here are a few unusual tips that might just give you the water-saving edge this summer:

Try some food colouring in your loo…
Apparently, a lot of water is wasted inside loos with undetected leaks. The water trickles from the cistern to the bowl so slowly that you’re not even aware there’s a problem. Want to detect sneaky leaks? Add a few drops of food colouring to your cistern water, and then watch the bowl to see if any of the colour appears. If it does, and you haven’t flushed, you’ve got a leak. Time to get fixing!

Oh, and while we’re in the bathroom, chucking a used tissue or a squished bug into the loo is a no no. It’s just as quick (and far more water-wise) to use a dustbin instead.

Add an unusual décor-item to your kitchen…
A watering can is not something one expects to see in a kitchen, but if you have one of these handy items on hand, it will be easier to collect all the ‘warm up’ water when you open the hot tap, bits at the bottom of half-drunk glasses and water bottles, and the water you’ve washed your veggies in. Once the watering can is full, you can just tip it over any needy plants.
Any salt-free water left over from cooking or steaming vegetables can be added to this too (once it has cooled down, of course).

Love your garden? Why not try clay-pot irrigation?
Using clay pots to irrigate soil is an ancient technique that seems to have been forgotten by many of us, but it could be a more water-saving way of irrigating your parched plants. The idea is simple: water slowly seeps through the walls of an unglazed clay pot that’s been buried beneath the soil. Irrigating in this way means no water lost to evaporation, but still getting the good stuff to the roots where it’s needed.

If you’re not a potter, or are struggling to buy one these clever clay goodies (sometimes called ollas) in SA, it is possible to make a DIY version by repurposing a couple of terracotta pots:

  • Glue two terracotta pots of the same size together, rim-to-rim, and caulk to prevent leaks.
  • Seal up the drainage hole of the bottom pot, and leave the top one open – this will stick out over the top of your soil so that you can top up the water with a watering can when needed.
  • Bury this construction in a spot near thirsty plants, making sure to keep the ‘open-drainage-hole’ side poking out of the top of the soil.
  • Once you’ve poured water into this hole, cover it with a handy stone to stop bugs and debris from falling in.

The water will gradually seep through the walls of the pot and out into the soil as the plants need it, keeping them thriving, and your water usage low.

So, however you plan to spend your summer, have fun, keep cool, and be water-wise!