False Bay garden and water in February


- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Uncle George again has his nose just above water - he marks the right level for us.

Uncle George in Froggy Pond
Uncle George in Froggy Pond

If we have rain coming ... I bath to make space in our tanks, and that harvested bathful has filled our wildlife pond.

Froggy Pond and the platform for the third rain tank
Froggy Pond
and the platform for the third rain tank

From our February municipal accounts in litres per person per day.

2015 garden calm before the storm of renovation. Two leaves cuttings of sea hibiscus wave a tiny bud over my head today.

2016 garden 285 litres. When we first filled Froggy Pond (with tap water!) Woodland Walk planters disappear behind lush growth.

2017 garden 207 litres. Blooming shrubs and trees are battle the drought.

Hiding the tap in the front garden with a raised pot Karoo Koppie and Summer Gold
Hiding the tap in the front garden with a raised pot
Karoo Koppie and Summer Gold

2018 on our latest account 53 litres. For February today, we have used 61 litres. 11 days off-grid using our rain water. Without our rain tank, we average 33 litres of municipal water.

In February Capetonians limit our daily consumption under 50 litres (13 gallons). Level 6b water restrictions in Cape Town. Day Zero was pushed forward to 9th July - thanks to a water donation from Elgin fruit farmers. I am targeting #40ForFood and #40WithInformals. Residents of Masi township use 42 litres and most are getting water from a standpipe.  

Kumara disticha fan aloe planted in 2015
Kumara disticha fan aloe planted in 2015 

Not risking a flare up of eczema on my hands. We have turned back the stopcocks. A gentle trickle of fresh clean water, is all I need. Plastic bowl in the hand basin gets tipped in the cistern. That small change brought us down from 50 to 40 litres on a careful day.

Bananas are still green but getting thicker new flowers smell delicious then drop off
Bananas are still green
but getting thicker
new (male) flowers smell delicious then drop off

Washing machine - harvest the soapy water separately (begin with 5 litres of rinse water in the drum; add another 5 via the soap drawer when you see that your machine is drawing water). Harvest the rinse water (use another 5 for the first rinse). I use the Mixed programme not Cotton (less water used, still an hour of washing time) 

Preying mantis eating a live bee awfully slowly Newly hatched babies
Preying mantis eating a live bee awfully slowly
Newly hatched babies

Cape Town gets four times as much rain on the city as we use in our taps (John Okedi, a civil engineer UCT). At present, residents are using about 350 million litres per day while other sectors, such as commerce, industry, government and large institutions, are using 250 million litres. The new target of 450 million litres is going to be a challenge (Dr Kevin Winter, environmental and geographical sciences department at the UCT). With our rain tanks it will be interesting to live thru 2018. The city's stormwater could be stored in the existing 800 retention ponds to recharge the aquifer.

Pelargoniums Crassula Californian poppy
Pelargoniums
Crassula Californian poppy

'The Metro’s water management team, while remaining cautious, recognise that provided we meet our reduced water usage targets, then we are now likely to survive until the winter rains arrive without invoking [Day Zero] stage-2 collection/rationing'

Rotheca hosts carpenter bees, Agapanthus Streptocarpus Plectranthus
Rotheca hosts carpenter bees, Agapanthus
Streptocarpus Plectranthus

We live in the Deep South. Our water comes via the Clovelly pump station. Our consumption has halved from 20 to 10 and Felicity Purchase says 6 or 7 million litres would be possible. Kleinplaats and Lewis Gay dams above Simon's Town (contain enough water for the crucial next 150 days), the Brooklands water treatment plant, potential desalination from Dido Valley and a naval ship out in False Bay - means we could be independent of the emptying big dams.

Metalasia volunteer covered in flowers Hibiscus Hypoxis seedling, lemons
Metalasia volunteer covered in flowers Hibiscus
Hypoxis seedling, lemons 

For Through the Garden Gate with Sarah in Dorset
and Wildflower Wednesday with Gail at Clay and Limestone in Tennessee.

Crinum Pelargonium Knoffel buchu Pelargonium
Crinum Pelargonium
Knoffel buchu Pelargonium

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Pictures by Diana and Jürg Studer

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Comments

  1. Your drought is very scary. I hope you meet your reduced water usage targets, and survive until the winter rains arrive without enduring more hardship. Desalination sounds like the way to go, maybe. Despite the lack of water, you have some beautiful blooms. P. x

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    1. I'm concerned about desalination - both for the financial cost, and the effect on marine life of the waste brine. But desalination IS in our future.

      Delete
  2. As well as being particularly readable (and full of fabulous images including an arresting image of the submerged face) I'm now informed of the struggles to use water wisely in your oasis. We get too much rain here and, as yet, we're not on a meter for the dry summer months, so I am far too lax with the hose pipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has been a painful learning curve.

      Uncle George was bought from the potter herself when we visited open gardens in Elgin. Each face she made was unique (and my mama once had an Uncle George)

      Delete
  3. I read just last night that your Day Zero had been pushed out until July but I'm sure that's only a small comfort. As we're now clearly back in drought in southern California, it annoys me that people here haven't awoken to the similar risk we face in the long term. At least, your experience will guide us when the time of reckoning comes. Best wishes, Diana!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Annoys me that people now say - I can use lots of water. Even one idiot who claims the pictures of a nearly empty dam are photoshopped!!

      But our latest water bill has shot up, and that is two weeks at the old rate and only two weeks at the punitive tariff. Next month will be a reality check!

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  4. This really paints a picture of what it’s like living with water restrictions. It’s made me stop and think. We take things so much for granted. All the best. Karen

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    Replies
    1. Our drought, your Beast from the East. Siberian breeze!

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  5. Very informative post Diana & we wish well in your attempts to live carefully with what you have. I agree it is about changing habits & not thinking one or two good rainfalls will solve the problem.

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    Replies
    1. Doing a load of washing is more effort, harder work - but it continues to shock me how relatively little water we need to retain a comfortable lifestyle.

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  6. As you know we have a well which appears to have huge supplies of water but the fact that the water has to be pumped up from 80 metres down means it has a high cost in electricity so I am always aware of my water usage but I find your figures for water use very scary. As with many things it has to made easy for people to save water by recycling grey water ect. I think of you whenever I need to water any plant and water use is high on my list of priorities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The filters and pump which bring rain water into our house would be hit by loadshedding if ESKOM hits another wobble. But we can use a tap to fill watering cans. We have a solar geyser, but using much less water has brought down our electricity bill - despite charging the new electric car!

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  7. Oh what a disaster, but you're staying on the right side of OK for now. I seriously hope you get loads of rain, like our kind of rain for hours at a time, days in a row. (An odd thing to wish maybe but meant with LOVE). Good for you with all your tips and tricks, hard learnt but worth it.
    Gorgeous pictures as always xx

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    Replies
    1. We can remember when we used to get days of soaking rain in winter. Perhaps we will again this year??

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  8. Thank goodness you put in those extra water tanks. It must be so time consuming being so careful with your water consumption. It is incredible how you have cut it by so much. The flowers on the bananas look amazing, do they smell of bananas? Sarah x

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    1. Banana flowers smell - follow your nose - delectably of tropical fruit salad. I wonder ... edible flowers?!

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  9. I hadn't realised that there was such a water shortage problem in your part of the world but it just shows how much can be achieved if everyone uses water consciously and economically. That attitude shouldn't be limited to drought situations, we waste so much water here in Europe.

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  10. It's amazing what you do with rationed water. I've been thinking about you, since South Africa's drought has been covered on our news lately. Very impressive what you've done and what you continue to do. And your blooms, as always, are lovely!

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  11. Reading about your reduced water consumption is sobering. I pray that the rains return and that desalination and other efforts to increase water supply will help alleviate the problem. I always enjoy your photos. The pic of the praying mantis is fascinating, but my sympathy is with the bee!

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    Replies
    1. Each time I walked past and saw the poor bee, still alive - awful. I planted the basil for the bees, not thinking about predators.

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  12. Lovely flower photos, and the Praying Mantis photo is really great!

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  13. This has been fascinating information. It seem everyone is trying hard to find solutions. Is the waste brine used for anything?

    Jeannie @ GetMeToTheCountry

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    Replies
    1. We are still in the throes of setting up temporary desalination plants. Waste brine is scheduled to be returned to the ocean, which is not good for sea life.

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    2. Oh, I did not know but that makes sense. I guess it is like the Dead Sea in Israel where everything is dead due to the high concentration of minerals.

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    3. The Dead Sea is concentrated natural salt. We do harvest sea salt. But the brine from desalination is contaminated with the chemicals used for processing.

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    4. I continue to learn more and more. I don't live near an ocean, just creeks and lakes, so I know little about them. Thanks for taking the time to explain.
      Jeannie

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  14. Your garden is so pretty. I love how you made your raised beds. Has poor Uncle George surprised anyone? You said you had to take a bath to make room for more water before a rain. Is that water from your pond or a cistern?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In life Uncle George is only about the size of a large fist.
      The water is from the rain tanks. Overflow fills the pond, and then to the garden.

      Delete
  15. Diana, your situation is indeed scary, uncle George comes a close second. I do hope the situation eases soon. Yor garden is looking remarkably good.

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    1. He's quite a chirpy avuncular type. My fault for the gloomy photo.

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  16. Ultra-cheap solar, when it comes, will make desalinization a lot more affordable, then brine disposal becomes the problem to solve.

    So many idiots here replanted their lawns after one rainy year. Takes multiple crisis for reality to hit, I guess.

    How are you liking your electric vehicle?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We like! Still learning the quirks. Comfortable. Big views. Turns on a sixpence. We can listen to music when stuck in traffic. After the Land Rover we enjoy overtaking safely. Bonus - fully charged while we visited the newest art gallery ;~))

      Anti-fouling and POPs are the worrying part of the brine.

      Delete
  17. Hi Diana, i envy the water consumption strategies in your place, unlike us here. I tried something on my own with 2 small thanks for rainwater conserving for the dry season, however it is not enough for my plants. Our soil cracks at the height of the dry season now aggravated by climate change. It is good your mosquitoes are not increasing with your ponds.

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    Replies
    1. We had that clay becomes concrete in Porterville.

      Some mosquitoes in our pond, but the dragonfly larvae devour them.

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  18. I agree that desalination is a worry. What a learning curve, it really is requiring a new way of living. The world is looking at Capetown I think seeing it as a phenomenon that will soon be much more widespread. It's sad and scary. Good luck and thank you for your informative post.

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  19. We do take our water for granted here. I love your Uncle George!

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  20. I read your blog with fascination each time. The ingenious methods you go to to save water. We are so wasteful in our part of the world although water metering has made us think. We have desalination at times which seems to work well. B x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'you can't manage it if you don't meter it'

      Some people here are being pushed out of their comfort zone. They have been paying whatever for water without thinking about how much they use. Or when renting the water is included - so the wasters are subsidised by unhappy neighbours who DO save. Slowly pushing landlords to installing individual meters - so the wasters pay the punitive new tariffs.

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  21. Here you are, saving every possible drop of water, while I had to let hundreds of litres of water flow from the rain barrel into the drain to prevent the rain barrel from cracking due to freezing.😕

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  22. I wish that this terrible drought would end and that rain finally arrives. Sorry, Uncle George :-)
    Amalia
    xo

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  23. You are doing so much to keep your garden going during this extraordinary drought. It seems all too often that water is a feast or famine situation. In my part of the world our chief worry.

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  24. I had missed your post while I was away from the blog. What you've achieved is amazing. We are in severe (not extreme, however) drought mode here, with too little rain this past winter and not enough during last summer's monsoon season. It is worse up in the north of the state - sadly, as those areas are far less wealthy and more agricultural than the city of Phoenix and will surely be harder hit.
    I am fascinated watching the wild plants respond. It's been a couple of years since we've had a good showing of wildflowers, but the reliables such as Sphaeralcea and Encelia are blooming in the roadsides at present. I dread seeing the wild Saguaros all shriveled as happened two summers ago.
    In any case, I think far more of alternatives and usage these days - thanks in part to watching your experiences! All the best! And greetings to Uncle George - what a wonderful addition to the garden pool!

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