South Africa is a water-scarce country, ranked as one of the 30 driest countries in the world, with an average rainfall of about 40% less than the annual world average. Dr Guy Preston, renowned environmental scientist, shared some practical water-saving tips to reduce your water usage in and around the home with IOL.

Check for leaks

Turn off all taps and make sure that the toilet cistern is not filling up. Then check if your meter is still running. If it is, try to ascertain what is leaking, or call a plumber.

Fix all leaks

Check whether your taps are dripping, whether your toilet is leaking into the bowl (place a piece of toilet paper against the back, inside of the bowl, and see if it gets wet), whether your hoses are leaking, or whether your hot-water cylinder pressure release is overflowing.

Check the accuracy of your meter

After checking that there are no leaks, stop all water use. Fill up a bucket of a known volume, and see whether this amount is indicated correctly on your meter. If the meter is inaccurate, consult your local authority.

Water-wise gardening

This is likely to be the area where you can make the biggest savings. Focus on indigenous and non-water-consumptive alien plants (not invasive alien plants). Group these plants according to their water needs and add mulch around them. Consult a registered nursery for advice.

Water less frequently, but make sure that water gets to the roots of the plants. Check the moisture level by sticking your finger into the soil.

Do not water between 10am and 3pm, or when it is very windy. You can lose up to 90 percent of water to evaporation when watering in the middle of a hot, windy day. It is also better to water with a hand-held hose than a sprinkler (especially an automatic sprinkler).

Swimming pool

Do not over-fill or excessively back-wash your swimming pool. Use a pipe from your gutter to use water from your roof to fill the pool (cover the end of the pipe with pantyhose to act as a filter to prevent debris going into the pool). Use a pool cover to reduce evaporation.

Storing and re-use

Roof water can be stored in tanks for watering gardens. Another option is to use ‘grey water’ — from baths, washing machines and other safe sources — to water the garden and to flush toilets.


Choose appliances that conserve water and electricity. They can save you a considerable amount of money in the long term. This applies to washing machines and dishwashers in particular.

Shower rather than bath

Use low-flow showerheads. You can get a very good shower for a little as 5 litres per minute, compared to the norm of about 20 litres per minute.


Tap aerators can be screwed to the end of your taps to reduce the amount of water used when washing.


Toilets are major water users, averaging 9 ‒ 11 litres per flush. Dual-flush toilets are the best option, and can be easily retrofitted. There are other options that your plumber could recommend.


Use a plug in the basin when washing dishes. Don’t leave the tap running whilst washing dishes, brushing your teeth or shaving.


Fill up the kettle to the level you need when boiling water, and similarly when boiling a pot of water for cooking.

Washing cars

Use a bucket rather than a hose if you wash your car. If you must use a hose, use a sprayer that can be turned off in-between spraying the car. Don’t hose down paved surfaces.