Waterwise tactics for SMEs

  • Above: Raw Golden Honey

Day Zero, it seems, is no longer a threat to Cape Town in 2018 – provided residents stay on track.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane has announced that “We will defeat Day Zero in 2018 if we keep our consumption at current levels and get good winter rains.” This is owing to a 60% reduction in consumption from a daily usage of 1.2 billion litres per day in February 2015 to current figures of between 510 and 520 million litres.

While it might seem safe to relax the rules a bit and have a longer shower, it is still vital that people continue to rein in their water usage to preserve this precious resource for the long-term.

However, it’s not only residential users of water who must focus on water-saving, but owners of small businesses need to continue plans to implement water strategies, so they too can play their part in keeping Day Zero at bay.

Eco Furniture

There are particular industries that rely on water to stay in operation. The hospitality industry is an example. Protea Hotels by Marriott have removed plugs from baths and closed pool, steam and sauna facilities to limit water consumption by guests. And tourist attractions like Cape Point are recycling grey water for flushing toilets and offering only waterless hand sanitiser in place of soap in toilets. 

Protea Hotels by Marriott have removed plugs from baths and closed pool, steam and sauna facilities to limit water consumption by guests.

Karl Westvig, chief executive officer of Retail Capital, which provides South African business owners with the opportunity to grow their businesses through access to funding, says there are many small businesses that are adapting well to using significantly less water in their daily operations. But he encourages business owners on a national level to lead the charge by carrying out water savings plans. 

Afri Vintage

“The impact of the drought on business could be huge, and we need to ensure the survival of small and medium-sized businesses. After all, they contribute over 65% of South Africa’s employment and 50% of the country’s GDP,” he says. 

“Some franchise owners and restaurants are now recycling water, taking pasta off their menus, and some are even reducing washing up by supplying disposable plates and utensils.” 

One of Cape Town’s top restaurants, The Test Kitchen, is following this trend. The world-renowned eatery has introduced an innovative ‘Drought Kitchen’ menu, which will run as a pop-up at the restaurant from 1 April until the end of May. All dishes will be served in a wooden frame on compostable cardboard that is slipped out between courses; guests will be asked to keep the same cutlery for all six courses, and there will no longer be tablecloths and cloth napkins in the restaurant. Furthermore, the new menu will use minimal water to prepare. In addition, melted ice-bucket water is already being retained for cleaning floors.

Salons also have a big challenge, being so water-intensive. Many owners have had to adjust to using bottled water, at additional cost to their business. Some have even instituted a policy of customers bringing their own water.

If you are an owner of a small business or a franchise, here is Westvig’s advice on how to restrict water usage:

  • Install aerators on taps. They are relatively cheap and definitely assist with reducing water consumption.
  • Provide staff with a central supply of bottled water so that they can refill bottles rather than using a new bottle each time.
  • Recycle water left in bottles after meetings. This water can be used for cleaning purposes or to fill toilet cisterns.
  • Stock up on water-saving products like hand sanitisers.
  • Dispense with cloth tablecloths, replacing them with plastic versions that just need to be wiped down.
  • Redirect grey water for use in toilets.
  • Source mobile toilets that use recycled, not potable, water for any events.
  • Builders should use treated water from municipal treatment works for cleaning and mixing wet material on site.
Woodstock Gin

“With the drought being of national concern and causing costs and disruptions to business, other provinces can learn from the Western Cape now by putting in boreholes, stocking up on water-saving products, reducing water usage, and changing plumbing where possible,” urges Westvig. “It would be wise for businesses on a national level to start implementing water-saving strategies and sustainable practices now to help prevent having to endure a crisis in the future.”