Water savings messages become more urgent as South African town hits record 50 degrees Celsius

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Water savings messages have a new urgency with a South African town reaching a record high temperature of 50 degrees Celsius. 

The climate emergency is growing as we see from the COP 25 opening talks referring to “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon”. Rivers are polluted and drying up. Boreholes are extracting precious “blue’ water. Farmers in parts of the country have experienced drought now for five years. Aging water infrastructure continues to lose large volumes of scarce and precious water. 

Some time back resource savings and efficiencies were starting to gain traction. However, with the economic conditions the water message is not being driven as hard as it could be. Take a look around at various public and private spaces and you’ll be hard-pressed to find water savings messages that aim to change behaviour. 

Of course, there are businesses that use tremendous amounts of water and these businesses are advertising their frugality with water usage. Take for example, the a car wash in my neighborhood which saves more than 75% water on each wash. This company has made it their business to save as much water as possible through recycling. 

What then can be done to save more water?

There are basically three ways: change behaviour, introduce new systems or processes or use technology that automates a process and eliminates human behaviour. 

If we examine these three, you’ll find changing human behaviour is often not sustainable over the long term. It’s hard to change human habits. Think of all the unnecessary water wastage such as turning on the hot tap in a shower and running out all the cold and warm water, which unfortunately leads to the loss of precious water resources. 

Domestic use of water remains stuck in traditional consumption habits. Take a basic process such as making plunger coffee. It can take up to three or four times the quantity used to make a cup of coffee to clean the plunger. 

The next two areas – changing the system or process and using technology to automate a process – require capital outlay. In hard economic, businesses and private individuals are not too eager to fork out money. However, as the water situation worsens and water costs rise the payback period on water process change and automation should become more attractive. 

When doing business continuity plans, one notices that water shortages and disruptive incidents because of a lack of water aren’t high on the priority risk list. This is bound to change as consumers including businesses and private individuals become more aware of the risks that disruptive water incidents can cause to their businesses and livelihoods.

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