Responsible Tourism Toolkit – Part 2 Water Conservation
That water is a scarce resource holds no more truth than right now in South Africa, where most of our provinces are suffering from severe drought situations. According to the Mail & Guardian, “South Africa is facing its worst drought since 1982, with more than 2.7 million households facing water shortages across the country” (5th November 2015). The current El Niño, one of the strongest since 1950, is thought to be the main cause of our current predicament.
El Niño is associated with a prolonged warming of the Pacific Ocean sea water temperatures that occurs on average every five years, can last nine months to two years, and causes extreme weather conditions around the globe.
El Niño, coupled with the effects of global warming, creates havoc with weather patterns, which has a direct impact on livelihoods and local economies. Poor harvests, reductions in agricultural production and fisheries output leads to a rise in food prices and food insecurities. The extreme weather patterns associated with El Niño also impact on health and social conditions, with for example increased outbreaks of mosquito transmitted diseases and sometimes even social conflict.
With our dams across the country at an all-time low and many areas already having severe water restrictions in place, it is not rocket science to realise that water conservation is now even more important than ever.
The below toolkit has been developed specifically for the tourist industry, but can and should be applied by any business and household. Basically anybody who uses water can play their part in conserving this scarce resource, large and small businesses, young and old people, single households and families – #EveryDropCounts.
Baseline Water Consumption
As a business, water conservation can also save money and ultimately help your bottom line. Before you start a water efficiency drive, you will need to establish your starting point or baseline, which is an essential step in knowing how much water and thus money you will have saved over a period of time.
To calculate your baseline, measure your water usage over a period of time that preferably includes all seasons, i.e. your wettest and driest seasons. Your municipal rates bill provides your water usage (in kilolitres) on a monthly basis, so all you need to do is add up the 12 months of the year.
You then divide your total water usage by your number of bednights sold over the same period (for accommodation providers), number of staff members (for e.g. tour operators), number of clients (for e.g. activity providers), or whatever is appropriate for your business.
Baseline Water Consumption = Total kilolitres water for one month OR one year
No. of bednights OR staff members OR clients
As with your energy audit in Part 1 of this toolkit, you need to identify areas within your business with the highest water usage. Set your water saving targets and keep records of your future monthly water consumption and cost. The City of Cape Town has currently implemented Level 2 Water Restrictions, meaning that everybody should reduce their usage by 20%, which is a good guideline to follow.
You can now start to implement some water saving tips from the toolkit below. Always re-measure your water usage at regular intervals to monitor your progress. If you decide to invest in more advanced water efficient technology, monitor the initial investment against the savings made over time, so you can calculate your return on investment (ROI).
Easy NO Cost Water Saving Tips
1. Educate both your staff and guests on your water conservation policy and encourage them to actively take part and give practical advice on how.
Bathroom & Kitchen
2. Fix any leaks and dripping taps and shower heads, as this can waste large amounts of water. A slow dripping tap wastes about 22 litres/day or 8,000 litres/year of water.
3. Provide guests with the option to re-use linen and towels and make sure your housekeeping staff sticks to the rules.
4. Encourage your guests to take shorter showers, to fill the bath not quite to capacity, and to turn the tap off when cleaning their teeth or when saving.
5. Collect water when washing your hands and rinsing fruit and vegetables in a bowl or bucket and use this to water pot plants and flowerbeds in the garden.
6. Only run washing machines and dish washers when full.
7. Don’t buy bottled water, but use (filtered) tap water for drinking purposes. Did you know it takes about 3 litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water?
House & Garden
8. To minimise evaporation, water plants and gardens early in the morning, but preferably in the early evening or at night and on non-windy days.
9. Switch automatic watering systems off during wet periods.
10. Clear any alien vegetation from your property, as they use huge quantities of water.
11. If you feel you really need to wash the car or windows, use a bucket and sponge instead of the garden hose. Alternatively, use a commercial car wash that recycles its water.
Easy LOW Cost Water Saving Tips
Bathroom & Kitchen
1. Install flow control valves on taps and tap aerators on all sinks. Normal tap flow is around 20-30 litres/minute, which can be reduced to 5-10 litres/minute with flow control valves. Tap aerators give the sense an increased tap flow by mixing water with air.
2. Use a low flow showerhead, which can still provide a quality shower with a flow of as little as 9-12 litres/minute. Conventional showerheads use 15-20 litres of water/minute. An average family of four can save around 1.2 kilolitres of water per month without changing their lifestyle.
3. Install dual-flush or water saving toilets. Conventional toilet cisterns use 9-12 litres of water to flush the toilet, whereas water saving or low volume toilets only use 6 litres. The dual-flush system can flush either 3 or 6 litres of water with two separate push buttons. If your toilet system does not need replacing yet, cistern floats can be adjusted to reduce the flush volume. An old fashioned remedy is adding a brick wrapped in a plastic bag into the cistern to reduce the water quantity needed to refill the tank.
House & Garden
4. Recycle grey water from sinks and showers to supply toilets and use for irrigating the gardens. A simple filtering and disinfection process needs to be applied to use the grey water.
5. Use insulation covers for all swimming & splash pools to reduce evaporation. Did you know that during a hot day, your pool level can drop by as much as one centimetre per day?
6. Harvest rainwater from all the roofs on your property in water tanks for cleaning use and irrigation.
7. Plant indigenous and drought resistant/water-wise plants where possible, reducing the amount of irrigation water needed drastically.
8. Use mulch in your gardens to reduce evaporation. Use the cleared alien vegetation to create your own free mulch.
More Advanced Water Saving Tips
1. Use passive infra-red (PIR) sensors for urinal flushing systems in men’s toilets.
2. When purchasing new appliances, select water efficient washing machines and dishwashers, such as appliances with short wash cycles.
3. For new builds, consider installing dry composting toilets, cutting down on water use for flushing toilets altogether.
For more sustainability tips check out the Responsible Tourism Toolkit:
Part 1 – Energy Efficiency