Last week we took part in #WatershedWednesday - a challenge set to Cape Town's businesses by the WWF to take extreme water-saving action. The Western Cape is experiencing the worst drought in over a century and Day Zero, the day water runs out in Cape Town, is getting closer. Action is needed.

We need a watershed moment.

We are pleased with the incredible feedback and action that Watershed Wednesday on 29 November has inspired and we are committed to continuing to create awareness and inspire water-saving action. For the Two Oceans Aquarium, Watershed Wednesday is here to stay. 

What were our staff's experiences?

On Watershed Wednesday, we set several challenges for our staff - to see how they would deal with extreme water-saving measures, and to see if they would continue to take these measures forward. We challenged them to bring two litres of water to work to be their day's entire water ration, wear the same clothes multiple days in a row and to not to use any towels.

Communications & Sustainability Manager Helen Lockhart:

So I did the two litre challenge and wore my clothes two days in a row… 

I was quite anxious with the two litre challenge as I drink a lot of tea and thought I would run out very quickly.  I filled my bottle up in the morning before I had my first cup of tea and then took my two litres to work with me. I felt quite protective over it! I decanted some water into another more transport-friendly bottle when I went to a meeting offsite. I was pleasantly surprised to see that by the end of the day I still had some water in my bottle. I now use that bottle every day to keep track of how much I am consuming. 

This exercise made me really appreciate my water and made me more mindful of every drop. I even enjoyed my tea more! It also made me more conscious of my overall water use and reinforced the habits I have gotten into at home and at work. Being water-wise also means being water-mindful.


Visitor Services Manager Nathalie Viljoen:

Same clothes two days in a row; great initiative for those that do not wear uniform daily, as most of my Visitor Services staff wear their uniform two or more days before it goes for a wash. I was excited because I did not have to think about what to wear the next morning!

I brought one-and-a-half litres of water to work, and I was quite excited and conscious of my water footprint on that day. I drink a lot of tea, three or four cups of tea and a coffee of +-200ml each. I immediately narrowed that down to less tea, as I now could see how my water was disappearing. I also chose to make my own tea on the day, out of fear that I am exceeding my "quota". 

The litre and a half of water heightened my consciousness about how much water I use, and when my bottle was finished I felt angst because there was no more. It almost showed me what would happen when there is no more water coming from the tap.

Since that day, I try and bring my bottle every day, and make my tea/coffee from that. 

Wearing the same outfit twice saves you the worry of what to wear. Nathalie takes up this challenge and pulls it off.

Sales Executive Jenni Liebbrandt:

Challenge accepted! For#WatershedWednesday I wore the same clothes two days in a row, all the way to the evening on the second day for a function we hosted here at the Two Oceans Aquarium. I brought my water bottle for all my water use for the day, and already being quite conscious of water savings I was able to use that same water into the second day as well.

The challenge lay in the clothing. The fact that I already knew I had a function on the evening of the second day started to concern me. The weather is getting hotter by the day, food seems to be attracted to the clothing I wear - was I going to still look presentable enough by that evening?

Well my fears all subsided by the time of the function, I had to stand up and welcome everyone (in the same clothing I had been wearing for two days) to the Two Oceans Aquarium. I had made it and no one knew any better, no coffee or food stains, and I didn’t seem to sweat that much either (huge relief). I realised that with effort I could save my clothes as well as water just by being more conscious of my surroundings.

This challenge has shown me that just because my clothing has been worn the previous day doesn’t make it dirty enough to actually go through a whole wash cycle in the washing machine. That by hanging it up in the sun and giving it some fresh air is more than OK to wear an item of clothing a second or third time before throwing it in the washing machine. Just go have a look in your washing basket, I am sure there are items in there that don’t “really” need a wash. Limit your washing of clothes and #savewater.

Jenni proves that you can still look fly at work, even in the same clothes!

Great water-saving ideas

Many great water-saving and awareness-creating ideas were put forward on social media on #WatershedWednesday. Here are some of our favourites:

Our staff's best ideas

An in-house competition was held for our staff for best home water-saving solutions - we weren't looking for generic answers: we wanted unique, extreme solutions that would help hold off Day Zero. From the many submissions, independent judges from WWF South Africa selected their favourites:

Using water three times (winner) 

Submitted by Deputy Head of Education Xavier Zylstra

I have had this up and running for about five months already. My washing machine is a top loader in a spare bathroom. I always pre-set it for low water or extra-low if it is a small (weekly) load. The first time around, I save the soapy water from the washing cycle in a 30-litre tub and then the rinse cycle water in the bathtub (there is a length of PVC piping I bought which can be directed from the machine to the 30l tub or into the bathtub). The soapy water is then transferred by bucket to be used as toilet flushing water - it lasts the entire week. The rinsing water in the bath is used as the washing water for the next load, to then becomes the loo-flushing water. That way, the water for flushing the loo is being used for the third time!

  • 1: Rinse cycle
  • 2: Wash cycle
  • 3: Loo flush

Just a little water-saving humour from Animal Health Coordinator Tersia Greenstone.

Setting a daily allotment (runner up) 

Submitted by Visitor Centre Coordinator Amina Hoosain

When I brush my teeth, to the tune of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah", I fill a one-litre jug which I then divide into two containers: One with fresh water, which I dip a sponge into to wash myself with. The other container's water I use to rinse the sponge, so it becomes soapy water. Soapy water goes towards wetting hair and I then put on product to make it curly (homemade, coconut-based). The remaining clean water goes towards watering veggies, or keeping in a bowl for later in the evening for a sponge bath, or for rinsing necessary food items, or for making tea.

That’s one water saving tip! Then I also do things like put my smalls in a bucket under the shower while waiting for the water to warm up. Jump/tread on them while showering, you wash your clothes at the same time as showering. Rinse in a bowl of clean water and then use that now-soapy water for flushing the toilet.

Plenty of great ideas submitted by Collections Aquarist Deen Hill.

Dodging Day Zero

We would like to remind and encourage Cape Town locals and tourists visiting the Cape to continue to be mindful of the ongoing water crisis - please do not exceed your allotted 87 litres a day (and yes, that includes the water you use in public places). We all need to work together to avert disaster - the drought might be caused by the weather, but running out of water will be the fault of humans.

The Two Oceans Aquarium remains committed to reducing its freshwater usage and promote sustainable, waterwise tourism in the Cape. We have installed a water consumption display, visible to the public at our front desk, (and we are already sharing this data online) and will continue the retrofitting of all water fixtures to water-sparse ones, in addition to the measures we currently take.

Our live water dashboard is now visible to all Aquarium visitors.

We are pleased that we have the opportunity to collaborate with organisations that are willing to go the extra mile to drive change - no matter how big or small your business is, you are part of the solution.

This situation will not solve itself - a watershed moment is needed. Image source: Alberton Record.

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