BREAKING NEWS : Full Story

The 90-second shower habit is hard to break

When I told friends that my wife and I were heading to Johannesburg -- which had just been hit by ...

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 3:31 AM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 3:31 AM

When I told friends that my wife and I were heading to Johannesburg -- which had just been hit by torrential rain and flooding -- for a family wedding over Easter, they joked about how lucky we were to be able to take deep baths and long showers.

Like many Capetonians, we've endured months of quick 90-second showers, bucket washes or baths that are only centimeters deep and grey water to flush the toilet or water our parched garden.

But taking my first shower in Johannesburg, I automatically ran the water long enough to wet myself and then turned off the tap while I soaped, followed by a quick rinse.

My wife admitted that rather than the deep, long soaking bath she'd dreamed of, she took a very shallow Cape Town-style dip. The only difference was that there were no buckets to scoop up the grey water, leaving us both feeling genuinely guilty about the wasted water that ran down the drain.

Clearly, we've both learned a life lesson about the importance of treating water as the precious, finite resource that it is. That lesson is part of what helped Cape Town fight back against the dreaded Day Zero -- the day when we'd turn on our taps and nothing would emerge.

The local authority first set Day Zero for April 12, and panic ensued. Fearful residents rushed to stock up on bottled water before the shelves were stripped bare (which happened rapidly each time they were refilled with more stock). Other everyday items like hand sanitizers, paper plates and toilet deodorants also regularly sold out.

Police were even called out to keep the peace when pandemonium broke out at some of the natural springs around Cape Town, as residents converged to collect free water. Tap water, then as now, is only used for cooking, bathing and washing clothes.

Faced with the prospect of running out of water -- and the imposition of punitive water tariffs -- people reduced their consumption. And as dam levels kept dropping, the authorities forced water management devices on water guzzling households that exceeded their quotas, at the homeowners' expense.

Many people laid out thousands on storage tanks to harvest rainwater, and on grey water systems and other water saving devices. Not flushing the toilet after every use is now normal in homes, offices and public bathrooms -- guided by an "if it's yellow, let it mellow" policy.

Also, in a world first, Cape Town established a dedicated police unit to crack down on water guzzlers, who were handed hefty fines.

As significant savings kicked in, boosted by slashing supplies to farmers, Day Zero kept being postponed, culminating in the announcement that it had been pushed out to an unspecified date in 2019.

And it's all thanks to a Herculean effort that halved Cape Town's water consumption in just three years -- something that took Melbourne, Australia, 12 years to do. Equally impressive is that Capetonians, on average, are using just under 33 gallons a day per person, compared to the 102 gallons used by California residents at the height of their drought in 2015.

It hasn't been easy. And it hasn't come without sacrifices and losses.

Economists have warned that the drought could negatively affect both Cape Town's tourism industry and the city's credit rating. Ironically, the loss of revenue from water sales and resultant sewage disposal has left the city's budget with a massive revenue shortfall, and the city council has tabled a proposed budget that will see water and sanitation tariffs rise by almost 27%.

Agriculture has been amongst the hardest hit sectors, with estimates that farmers have lost as much as a quarter of their vineyards and orchards. The loss has impacted seasonal farm workers -- with about 30,000 out of jobs during the harvest season.

Heartachingly, unemployed people in poor communities, who rely on backyard food gardens, are suffering as well. These food gardens, which are often communal, have become increasingly common in black townships. Besides helping feed families, they also create jobs and an income for the owners who sell some of the produce to their local communities.

Like thousands of others who have sustained "drought injuries," I have almost permanent pain in my right shoulder and upper back caused by lugging buckets full of grey or spring water. And I'm not the only one -- chiropractors and physiotherapists are doing a significant amount of business treating "drought-related" back and shoulders strains and pains.

But it's a small price to pay to avoid Day Zero -- and far from complaining, we wear our drought-related injuries as badges of honor.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
St. Joseph196466
Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
Tippecanoe7268
Madison65964
Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
LaPorte58026
Howard57757
Kosciusko5494
Vanderburgh5486
Marshall4904
Noble48228
Jackson4723
LaGrange4709
Hancock45035
Boone44543
Delaware44550
Shelby42625
Floyd38144
Morgan32931
Monroe30028
Grant29526
Montgomery29420
Clinton2892
Henry27415
Dubois2736
White26510
Decatur25032
Lawrence24625
Dearborn23823
Vigo2358
Harrison21822
Warrick21829
Unassigned193193
Greene18932
Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
DeKalb1624
Scott1627
Daviess14317
Wayne1406
Orange13623
Perry1299
Steuben1292
Franklin1248
Jasper1212
Ripley1177
Wabash1122
Carroll1102
Fayette997
Newton9810
Starke933
Whitley925
Gibson812
Huntington812
Randolph794
Wells731
Fulton721
Jefferson722
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey420
Brown391
Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton321
Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57956

Reported Deaths: 2927
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10410429
Cuyahoga7883373
Hamilton6019198
Lucas2752302
Marion273438
Pickaway219741
Summit2143206
Montgomery203427
Mahoning1832232
Butler159944
Columbiana130760
Stark1123112
Lorain103567
Trumbull96770
Warren86021
Clark7669
Delaware58215
Fairfield57216
Tuscarawas56710
Belmont54922
Medina52332
Lake50018
Licking49312
Miami46631
Portage44258
Ashtabula43544
Wood42851
Clermont4146
Geauga40742
Wayne36351
Richland3455
Allen32141
Mercer2829
Greene2589
Darke25125
Erie24422
Holmes2363
Huron2202
Madison1978
Ottawa14923
Sandusky13614
Crawford1355
Washington13520
Putnam12815
Ross1273
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Coshocton1112
Auglaize1074
Monroe8917
Jefferson882
Union861
Muskingum831
Hancock791
Hocking788
Guernsey743
Preble731
Lawrence710
Williams712
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Athens591
Carroll593
Wyandot596
Brown571
Defiance513
Knox511
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto410
Champaign401
Perry351
Van Wert350
Seneca342
Henry300
Paulding250
Adams241
Jackson230
Pike230
Vinton222
Gallia181
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 87°
Angola
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 83°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 82°
Decatur
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Van Wert
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Hot Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events