The water cycle

Water is one of the key building blocks for life – human beings cannot survive without it. It is essential for use in agriculture and industry. Water is even used to generate electricity. To save water we need to think not just about the water we use directly, for drinking and cleaning in our home, but also to become more aware of how water is used to make the food we eat, the products we use and to generate the power for our lights and stoves. Wise consumption will also save water.

Our right to water

The Water Services Act (108 of 1997) says that all water service authorities, such as our City, must provide water and sanitation services that are efficient, affordable, economical and sustainable. This means that the poorest of the poor must be able to afford the water they need, but at the same time, the Water and Sanitation Department must generate enough money to cover the cost of treating and distributing the water.

The Act sets the minimum amount of water for households to meet their basic needs at 25 litres per person per day. Based on an average household of eight people, this translates into six kilolitres per month per household. This amount of water should be provided free to all homes in South Africa. Water must also be
supplied at a minimum flow rate of 10 litres per minute, and if there are no taps in the home, a tap must be installed within 200 metres of that household. Consumers may not be without a water supply for more than seven full days in any year. The City’s Water and Sanitation Department must also make sure that water is available for future generations. 

Consider this:

  • To make a small car requires 450 000 litres of water
  • 130 litres of water are needed to make a bicycle
  • About 19 litres of water are needed to make one litre of petrol
  • It takes three litres of water to generate 1 000 watts per hour.
  • Doing the ironing, or cooking a meal in an electric oven will use roughly three litres of water at the power station!

City Water by-law enforces water demand management

In September 2006 two new water by-laws were gazetted in the City of Cape Town – the Water By-law and Waste Water and Industrial Effluent By-law (Provincial Gazette 6378). Full copies of these can be found on the City’s web site (under Water Services). The Water by-law incorporates permanent 10% water restrictions.

This is an exciting new development that aims to eliminate inefficient use of water. Some key regulations applicable to households, found in Schedule 2 of the Water By-law, include:

  • Nobody may water a garden (or indeed any grassed areas) using potable (purifed, drinkable) water, between the hours of 10:00 and 16:00.
  • Nobody may hose a hard-surfaced or paved area with potable water without prior permission from the Water Director.
  • Water savings devices, such as low-flow showerheads and tap fttings, and efficient toilet flush systems, must be included in all new buildings and developments within the city.
  • No toilet cistern may exceed 9,5 litres in capacity.
  • Automatic top-up systems using a float valve fed from a potable water source to supply swimming pools and garden ponds are not allowed.
  • Major water users, using over 3 650 kl of water per year (such as businesses and industry, but not including multiple dwelling units) must undertake an annual water audit.

City water consumption targets

The City aims to reduce water use and water wastage by 20% by 2020.

source: SMART Living Handbook


Greening your water

Other water topics

Case study: Mrs Zenzele tackles a leaking tap
Save water - fix your own dripping taps
Toilets - save water
Baths, showers, geysers, taps and washing machines
Gardens, pools, rainwater tanks and grey water

Go green home