A taste of Day Zero

WWFs Natasha Prince said the tag system was voted the best method for reducing water use in toilet cubicles.

With the severe drought being a taste of things to come, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has rolled out an initiative to provide a taste of Day Zero – the day when the taps run dry.

Water saving has not sunk in for about 64% of Capetonians who ignore the call to use less than 87 litres of water each day.

And for those who are, one of the toughest areas to save water is in the workplace and shopping malls.

Christine Colvin, senior manager for freshwater on the WWF conservation team, says these people are getting used to the idea of not flushing the loo at home, now the habit has to start at work.

As a way to assist, WWF has launched a campaign to urge water-saving measures for a day.

Called #Watershed Wednesday, the WWF staff held a dry run at their Newlands office on Wednesday November 15 and did it again on November 29 in solidarity with other businesses.

“The idea is for everyone to experience a simulation of life with limited water,” said WWF CEO, Dr Morne du Plessis, who lives in Tokai.

“We hope to spark new toilet cubicle conversations as we embrace the very real issues surrounding limited water in the Western Cape.’’

WWF communications officer, Natasha Prince said everyone from top management to cleaning staff wore the clothes they’d been wearing the day before to save on laundry loads.

“Each person brought a maximum of two litres of water to the office in a variety of containers.

“It isn’t about the specific quantity of water, it’s about the action of physically having something tangible and the choice of how we use this water,” said Ms Prince.

All taps, urns and water coolers were off limits for the day outside of an hour’s reprieve from noon to 1pm. Toilet-use operations were trialled and tested. In the morning, toilets were deemed permission cubicles where staff let the yellow mellow while in the afternoon cubicles worked on a tag system allowing a flush after the fourth yellow, or after a brown job. The tag system was voted the most acceptable.

On Fridays they hold a staff meeting and discuss what happened on #Watershed Wednesday and how to take it forward.

Ms Prince said for some, these water-saving habits were a wee bit of a challenge, particularly for women who found it difficult to urinate when the toilet had not been flushed clean. . “What they don’t realise is that pee is sterile. If they have the fourth tag they can choose to flush before or after a pee.

“Many people want to make changes but haven’t known how. Having notices trigger reminders that we can avert Day Zero by the little changes we make and they become a normal part of our lives,” said Ms Prince. She adds that appointing a workplace water champions to drive the campaign also helps.

Andrea Weiss was missing her coffee and so divided her two-litre allowance between a flask and a bottle.

The lives of cleaning staff were affected because they no longer make tea and coffee or provide water for meetings. And when they have visitors on Wednesday, they forewarn them about the campaign saying they are welcome to bring their own water.

Apart from #Watershed Wednesday, they use other water saving methods including sanitiser in the bathrooms and only washing dishes once a day.

For inspiration on what to do on the day, visit www.wwf.org.za/downloads/watershed-wednesday-ideas.pdf

As part of the campaign, WWF have launched a Bucket List Challenge competition, which rewards innovative and creative water saving ideas across the country.

They are asking businesses to join them and tell them of their water saving efforts at work, by making a one to two-minute video.

The competition started on Wednesday November 30 and ends on February 28. The winners will be announced during Earth Hour on March 24 next year.

Contact Roxanne Frizlar on rfrizlar@wwf.org.za or 021 657 6600 for more information.

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