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City of Cape Town is on a roll with water-saving measures

Its time to start getting creative around the house, throw off the sluggish habits of winter, get the tools out and cleaned and start working. We all need some cheer, what with everything the world, our country and the water crisis are throwing at us.

This was in part inspired by our dear friends Hein and Annelize, who stopped by en-route from a three-year stay in Mauritius to start a new life in Portugal. They left for Mauritius from Clanwilliam, where Hein was instrumental in getting me started in my workshop.

To relieve the quietness of life on an Indian Ocean island, Hein bought hand tools and an electric drill and was soon stocking the local Sunday markets with furniture, clocks and bric-a-brac made from materials collected from the beach, the streets or local junk yards – some amazing stuff.

Their visit brought home two points. One is that we live in a very clean city, so compliments to the council and citizens. Our friends could not believe how clean the city is, in general, compared to Mauritius. The second point was how quickly they adapted to our water crisis by not showering and by adopting our toilet rules. If only our own citizens would do the same.

How many of you forked out R80 a person and went to the Homemakers Expo last weekend? Mrs Mac and I set off in high spirits for an afternoon of fun, but we were soon bored with seeing the same stuff being exhibited again. That is until we got to the City of Cape Town stand titled: “Think water. Care a little. Save a lot.”

The stand, manned by Johannes Prins and his enthusiastic team, made a bold statement. I was first attracted by a roll of toilet paper bearing a simple message. I asked Prins if more were available and we fell into conversation.

The toilet paper sprang from a project the council had been involved in a few years ago to design of one of the bigger energy-saving corporate buildings in the city. It was designed to ensure re-use of water, recycling and other green ideas. Somebody had the bright idea of getting the building’s occupants involved. The toilet paper was printed, put into all the toilets and within two days water consumption dropped.

I suggested to Prins the council should distribute rolls to every residence in Cape Town, together with their booklet DIY Guide to Finding and Fixing Water Leaks. Please visit

Prins’s aim is to teach everybody to save water, and I have yet to meet a more enthusiastic council employee. He took me through different types of shower heads, flow restricters, tap fittings and ways of checking for leaks around the home. It was a thought-provoking 30 minutes. It was disheartening to see people look the other way when they passed the stand.

The council needs to get more vocal and visible about making water wasters feel guilty, and before they drag us all into a place we don’t want to be. Already we are living with Level 5 water restrictions.

Prins and I also got into discussions around the use of borehole water, rain water and grey water. While the council wants us to save as much water as we can, they have serious concerns about the health hazards of using water which is not 100% clean and thoroughly tested, especially if you are thinking of drinking it.

Borehole water contains contaminates that have seeped through the ground, rain water washes over dirty roofs and through gutters where birds and rodents have been, and if you leave a bucket of grey water standing for a day, the smell is nauseating.

I remain in total support of all options, but would like you to concentrate on saving water first and, once you switch to finding other supply methods, please ensure you are removing all risk of E coli and legionnaire’s disease. 

Handy Mac, aka Don MacAlister, is our expert on household DIY issues. If you have a question for him, please send it to or SMS only to 082 446 3859. Find Don on FB:
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