Words Nina van Zyl
Words Nina van Zyl
As a traveller to a foreign country, it is always a good idea to find out what the biggest issues facing that country currently are. In Namibia, it is a severe drought. As of June 2019, the City of Windhoek implemented strict water control measures, and the situation is, to sum it up, a little scary. The last few rainy seasons have not done us any good, and most of the agricultural sector is in dire straits. Which is why a visit to Namibia means being a Responsible Tourist by treating water as the locals do, in other words, save water where you can and use it sparingly. Here are ten easy ways you can do it:
This one might take some getting used to if you are in the habit of quickly washing your dishes or cups immediately after you’ve used them. Especially if you do not like a cluttered kitchen or sink. Consider this: when you run water, only a portion of it is actually used to wash your dish. The rest flows down the drain completely clean – and wasted. Try to hold your OCD-self back and let the dishes build up, before filling one big basin with hot water and lots of soap and another with cold water to rinse off. Then commence the washing up. But it doesn’t end there. You can save even more water doing dishes if you follow the next tip…
A few greasy plates can quickly turn clean soapy water into a murky mess, making it harder to use the same basin of water for all your dishes. Try wiping down your dishes with paper towels (we know! They’re not eco-friendly either, so use sparingly) before you wash them. That way your water will stay foamy for longer. Oh, and wash your glasses first. They are usually the least greasy of all your washing-up and harder to get sparkly in greasy water.
Habits die hard but making a point of closing the tap while you brush your pearly whites can save a ton of water. Or better yet, fill a cup with water and use that instead. Dip your toothbrush in a cup, do your toothy thing, spit, sip, gargle, spit, and then rinse out your toothbrush in the afore-mentioned cup. You’d be amazed at how much water can be saved with this simple change. Try implementing this habit in your daily life, even once you have returned home.
To get lathered up, you need to have been sufficiently doused in water. But while you turn your body into one big soapy bubble, consider turning off the water. After all, nothing messes with the intricate patterns you create on your forearms than rogue water droplets. Same goes for when you shave, ladies. Turn off the tap for the time being, because honestly, it serves no purpose to have water running while you duck out underneath it and stand in the furthest corner of the shower trying to avoid the spray.
You can tell we have quite a thing with showers. But the truth is that cutting down on the amount of water you use during a shower has quite a large impact for action so small. Our very last shower-saving tip is simple: instead of letting the water run for ages while you “wait for it to get hot”, simply get in the shower first and then turn on the tap. Yes, it might be cold, but if you direct the spray towards your feet first you should be fine. An added bonus is that the low temperature should make you get in and out in record time. You could even challenge yourself to take only cold showers – totally doable in this hot country. Or collect the water in a bucket and pour it into the toilet cistern.
We have already harped on about how to effectively take an eco-friendly shower, but now let us look at baths. Yes, look at baths all you want, but please don’t take them. For some reason, we humans tend to estimate that the water needed for a bath is much less than for a shower. This might be so, but only in the case of a really long shower. If you take short, effective showers (see above), then a bath can’t beat it. So stick to showers and save the baths for your next destination. Preferably in a country that doesn’t have a water crisis.
Make sure that the sources of water in your bathroom are not the sources of water wastage. Taps that are not properly closed can continue to dribble water down the drain for hours. The same problem exists with toilets, which can continue to run long after you’ve flushed. In the case of a runny toilet, try lifting the handle – that usually works. And with taps, simply make sure that you close a tap tightly after use. If neither of these techniques seems to work, the best is to contact whoever is in charge of maintenance of your dwelling as soon as you can and inform them of the problem. They will be happy you did so.
Again with the toilets! But with good reason. Every time you flush the toilet you flush about six litres of water down the drain. That seems excessive, but if you don’t believe us, try filling a toilet cistern with two litres and see how far you get. All this means is that you need to consider flushing the toilet only when you need to. Don’t dump tissues or contact lenses (now that is another story altogether!) in the toilet to get rid of them. That’s what a bin is for. Same thing for sanitary products, which in any case have a tendency to block pipes, so to the bin they go!
If you are a germaphobe (no shame in that!) and can’t stand to not wash your hands before a meal or after you’ve used the toilet responsibly, perhaps this is the time to point out the benefits of using hand sanitiser instead of soap. Both have their pros and cons, but consider the effect all that washing will have on your hands. The dry climate of Namibia can make the skin very parched, a situation not helped by being doused in water. Hand sanitiser on the other hand, ahem, doesn’t take away your skin’s moisture while still killing all the big bad germs. But the biggest benefit of all is that it doesn’t need water. ‘Nough said.
And lastly, consider cleaning your face of all the dirt and grime from your Namibian adventures with a face wipe. Yes, there’s all that packaging to consider, but again, let’s take care of the first things first, and in this case, that first thing is water. Using face wash means splashing water all over the place in a very ineffective manner, so if you have to do it, use a wet towel to dab your face before applying the product. The less water needed to come out the tap, the better.
And at the end of the trip, you can smugly pat yourself on the back, safe in the knowledge that you helped a desert country fight the drought.