Being the mother in a host family and tutor for English Language Homestays in South Africa, I pride myself on handling almost any situation life throws at me. If a student is not interested in studying, we play English language games. When someone doesn’t like reading and assignments, we do research projects in social sciences or any of a wide range of topics that interest them.
When we realised that Cape Town was facing the worst water crisisever experienced by a developed city and was in danger of having its taps run dry, however, I worried! The last thing I wanted was to turn full time or part time English language students away from our beautiful country. I knew that students wanting to visit our Fairest Cape would have questions: “Will a visit waste scarce water local people need?” “Will I be able to flush the toilet and have a shower at the home of my host family?” “Should I come at all?”
We have just successfully hosted 2 students on 2 separate occasions during the height of summer and not only have we managed to keep within the 50 litres of water per person per day allocation that the City of Cape Town allows us to use, but we have managed to beat it by only averaging about 38 litres of water used per person per day!
This is an incredible but essential fête during this period of adaptation to climate change realities. How did we do it so successfully?
- What you do not measure, you can not manage. Find your water meter and take daily readings. Make it fun and involve your family or guests. Our international students found this daily ritual fascinating and will probably start doing this at their homes too.
- Put up reminder notices. Don’t be coy – remind people to keep their showers to under 10 litres of water used (we wash our hair every day and get away with less), to close taps while they brush their teeth, etc.
- Ask everyone to hang their towels out to air dry in the lovely sun every day – this reduces the need to wash them.
- Invest in sustainable development strategies where you can. Harvest rain water for use in gardens or in washing clothes and harvest grey water for flushing loos. This has been the topic of some research projects our English students have done and is very interesting.
- Keep some hand sanitiser at hand to save from having to use potable water and soap. As magical as this invention is, it does have the tendency to dry out your hands after a while so we recommend finding some hand cream to keep the moisture levels of your skin up.
- Grey water washing – Whether it’s yours, or a rental, after some obligatory road trips around Cape Town your vehicle is likely to need a good wash – especially if some dirt roads found their way into your journey. Take it to a car wash that makes use of non-potable water. Not only will you be supporting a local business but saving water along the way.
- Communal eating: in order to reduce the overall amount of water being used, make meals that leave a fair amount of leftovers, arrange for a large group of people to cook and have their meals together (always an excuse for a party!) or cook your food over the fire. Braai (barbecue in SA) culture is a large part of the South African experience – so don’t be surprised if even the vegans get their food cooked over the fire. And you will be saving on washing up… bonus!
Whether you are planning to learn English in preparation for higher education studies, want to improve your fluency as a teenager, or want to study an undergraduate degree or pursue honours studies here, please remember that Cape Town is open and welcomes you. We South Africans will show you how to take water sustainability to the next level!