Making South African Homes More Environmentally Sustainable

Water Conservation

Overview | Grey Water Systems | Rain Water Usage | Water Wise Gardening | Low water shower and tap heads (aerators) and showers vs. baths | Low Water Cisterns | Swimming Pools | Water Conservation Further Reading

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Water conservation systems (grey water systems etc) usually cost far more than they will ever save you. However, they are helping reduce the use of municipal water, and make use of rain water and water re-use. You may however find that simple solutions, like implementing a water wise garden, or implementing a simple gravity feed from some outlets and watering parts of the garden with that, help enough. Also, start with the basics – leaking pipes and taps need fixing. A dripping tap leaks enough water to run a shower for about 5 minutes! As an experiment, if you have a dripping tap, put a bucket under it to see how quickly it fills up. Overall you can reduce water usage by about 90% by implementing the items below.

On average, toilets use about 35% water, showers or baths 20%, drinking and cooking about 5%, laundry about 5%, dishwashing about 5%, and the garden/pool easily 25% in South Africa!

Without any water saving devices, toilets use 9l water per flush. Showers 20l per minute. Taps 10-20l per minute. Washing machines as bad as 220l per load. Dishwashers about 60l per cycle. Garden hoses 9l per minute (The Natural House Book, pg 93). You do the math…

Grey Water Systems

Rain Water Usage

Rain water can be collected for filling a pool, garden irrigation, or even being used for domestic water supply. Installation requires redirecting drain pipes, installing water barrels, installing pumps and connecting up to the system in question. You will have to contact local plumbers, pool specialists etc to get this right.

Water Wise Gardening

Look into landscapers who can design a water wise garden – using plants that don't require much water, mulching systems and irrigation systems that don't waste water (e.g. water the roots of the plants, not the leaves, using well designed systems that spray low for the plants, and for trees drip water into tubing that extends down to the roots).

Do not water between 10h00 and 15h00, due to the high rate of evaporation, or when it's windy

Watering from a borehole or wellpoint still uses water from the water table. If possible, rather design a water wise garden that requires very little water.

Do not spray down areas of pavement, road etc – sweep them.


  • For indigenous water-wise plants contact Mr Morne Faulhammer at or on 083-412-5609 for South African Nursery Association options.
  • Ms Trish Hutton-Squire at the Botanical Society nursery at Kirstenbosch or Dr Dave McDonald at the Botanical Society ( are also very knowledgeable about water-wise, indigenous gardening.
  • Nigel Adams of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry should be able to provide a broader list of people providing these services.
  • The Department Water Affairs and Forestryand CSIR have developed an A-Z of Good Practice of Water Installations in Commercial and Residential Buildings website. The address is or . The information that is supplied gives the product no, potential savings, contact details of the supplier and info regarding the product.
  • Contact Mr Adams or Mr Rashid Khan ( ) regarding advice on those who supply boreholes.
  • In Cape Town, Ms Cathrine Wilson ( should be able to provide up-to-date information.
  • In Johannesburg, Mr George Constantinides ( ) would be a good contact.
  • for smart sprinklers that switch off when it rains 

Low water shower and tap heads (aerators) and showers vs. baths

Showering uses far less water than a bath (depending on the time spent under it). Fitting a low water shower head (called low flow, water efficient, low water, or aerated) will reduce water use further, and these are available from most hardware stores and shower suppliers. There are similar fittings for normal taps, which dramatically reduce the water used from a tap.

Low Water Cisterns

Look into buying dual flush toilets. Also make sure that the maximum water used in a flush is 9 litres.

Swimming Pools

We suggest you investigate filling your pool from rain water (see Rain Water Usage above)

Buy a solar cover for the pool ( )

If you want to heat the pool, consider using a system where pool water is circulated through pipes on the roof of your house (see Solar Heating in the Passive Heat Control section)

Water Conservation Further Reading

See the Household Appliances section for information on water (and energy) efficient washing machines and dish washers