When it rains in times of drought

You’d be forgiven if you thought the end times had arrived in the Western Cape these past few weeks. Entire chunks of the Garden Route were razed to the ground by an apocalyptic wildfire, and the worst storm in thirty years made landfall in Cape Town, uprooting trees, shutting down schools and causing all manner of strange behaviour among the locals.

While many people suffered catastrophic losses in these natural disasters (we encourage you to make donations to the Knysna fire relief effort here), one glimmer of hope had been that the behemoth of a storm would at least fill up some of the Western Cape’s scarily empty dams. Bad news: the results are in, and the dams are still pretty much empty. The heavy rains of the past weeks have added a paltry 1.5% to existing levels, leaving us at 21.2% (with only 11.2% being usable). Level four water restrictions remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Which means that you and I, as responsible citizens of planet earth and upstanding members of the Techno Park community, need to keep doing our utmost to preserve water. We know: it’s raining outside, everything is wet and gloomy, and nothing could be further from your mind than a drought. So we’ve put together a few handy tips to help you save water during the winter months. Print it out and stick it up on the office wall. Become the person who frowns at your colleagues if they keep the tap running while washing their hands.

  1. In winter, water gushes everywhere and storm drains overflow. Infrastructure takes strain. Be sure to report any water leaks you might see to the Stellenbosch Municipality. The Directorate: Engineering Services can be reached at (021) 808 8236. If the leak is on private property, get in touch with the owner and let them know right away.


  1. Recycle water used for cleaning and washing in the office to water plants and flush toilets. Not all of us have the engineering know-how to contrive a system with pipes and pumps and whatnot to run water from the kitchen sink to the toilet cistern, but all of us can use a bucket or a pitcher. If you do go into full engineering mode, however, and you come up with an ingenious system for recycling grey water, please be sure to share it with us. Send your water-saving pictures and stories to eckard@alphabell.co.za. (Keep in mind that it is not a great idea to save grey water for any length of time.)


  1. An oldie but a goodie: fill a bottle with water and put it in the toilet cistern. A brick will also do the trick. It’s completely outrageous how much water goes to waste unnecessarily through rampant flushing. If it’s yellow, let it mellow (if you don’t know what that means, ask a friend or a colleague to explain).


  1. Consider getting a device for the office that sucks moisture from the air and converts it into clean drinking water. It may not fit everyone’s pocket, but some have argued that the costs involved compare favourably with keeping and maintaining a conventional water dispenser.


  1. Don’t use potable water to hose down surfaces, or wash cars, or irrigate gardens. Unless you provide a professional service that needs to do these things, in which case you should get in touch with the Directorate: Engineering Services at Stellenbosch Municipality to check about permissions.


  1. Although they’ve been selling out like hot cakes, be sure to capitalize on the winter rains by investing in a rain water tank for your business premises. They come in many shapes and sizes to fit each pocket and space constraint. A good place to start is JoJo’s – in addition to selling a wide variety of tanks, their website has many handy tips for installation and maintenance.

Even more than these basic tips, however, we all need to change our thinking about water, and especially potable water. The catastrophic weather conditions we have been experiencing in the Western Cape – and indeed, across the country and the world – are signs of environmental change that are bound to last much longer than a mere seasonal drought, however bad that drought turns out to be. Wise up, use water sparingly, and put out buckets when it rains.

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