Liquid gold revisited…

Out on adventure, in nature - loving every drop of liquid gold

What do water and parenting have in common?


It’s been a few weeks since this column appeared in this paper. But rest assured, our adventures have haven’t stopped.

Primarily, our gallivanting isn’t far from home, out in nature.

After about three years together on two (or three) wheels, Beth is more connected to the beauty of nature than most adults I know.

She understands how to appreciate, incredibly simply, the complexity of the natural world. A bit like alchemy – a magic formula, of many ingredients, to make gold. In a nutshell (or an acorn doppie): Beth is filled with delight.

Much of our time is spent next to rivers. Lately, we’ve been admiring the pure freshness of the water from our winter rains. Because of our drought, we’re deeply appreciative of this liquid gold. Every drop of it – as we plunge our hands in, to scoop up and drink.

Hopefully, this appreciation will help Beth, throughout her life, appreciate water – in ways previous generations haven’t.

Beth is also part of a family which is wrestling with this crisis.

This is how I explained our challenge to Beth’s older sister:

She asked: “How do we change to ‘the New Normal’, to be ‘water resilient’”?

I tried to explain, simply:

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The state’s working hard – to add to water supply and cut wastage. But the greatest impact will come from simple steps, taken by all of us. By mass action.

In the Cape Town metro, 66.4 percent of water is used by formal homes. As a family, we sat down yesterday. Sifted through the masses of advice. Worked out one plan we all understand: 10 simple steps – four by each individual, six as a family:

My Step 1: Showers:

I won’t bath – I’ll shower. For two minutes. I’ll turn off while lathering. I’ll shower less often. I’ll collect shower water in a bucket – to fill the toilet cistern, water the garden, wash the car.

My Step 2: Toilets:

I’ll flush less often. “If it’s yellow, I’ll let it mellow.” Won’t use the toilet as a dustbin.

My Step 3: Hygiene:

I’ll turn off while brushing my teeth. Even better, I’ll use a cup of water, a bowl to splash my face.

My Step 4: Personal clothing:

I’ll only put clothes in the laundry that really need a wash.

Four steps, by each person. We were all taught these as kids. Easy to understand. Easy to do.

Next, our collective effort:

Our Family Step 1: Restrictions:

We’ll stick to the rules.

In a nutshell: We’ll use municipal drinking water only for essential washing, cooking and drinking purposes, and only use indoors.

Our Family Step 2: Toilets:

We’ll “Drop a Block” – a 2-litre plastic bottle filled with water, in all cisterns.

Our Family Step 3: Cooking, dishwashing and laundry:

We’ll wash full loads only, never let taps run.

Our Family Step 4: Taps, shower-heads and leaks:

We’ll continue replacing, will fix any leaks.

Our Family Step 5: Rain water:

We need help here. Buckets under gutters are easy. But tanks? Where do we start? The cost? Can we pay a system off? Is there a “turn-key” solution? Or do we have to work it out for ourselves?

Our Family Step 6: Grey water:

Even more complicated. Help! If it’s not simple, most won’t even try. Needs to be as easy as a cellphone upgrade.

Ten simple steps. We’ll need a “Family Scorecard”, to get to 10/10. Then we’ll hold our neighbours to account, too.

We’ll navigate complexity with simplicity. One step at a time, working towards all 10.

Understood, crystal-clear, by every single person.