Couple takes waterwise to ‘crazy’ level

Former Kalk Bay harbourmaster Pat Stacey outside his house which is set up in such a way that clean water is used only for drinking. All other water used in his home and garden, which includes a flourishing vegetable garden, is rain water or grey water. On the left you can see an old toilet cistern used to collect water from the gutter that goes into a brightly painted orange tank. Most items used on his property are recycled or second-hand and he and his wife Gerda are constantly thinking of improvements.

While many households are panicking about surviving the serious level three water restrictions implemented by the City of Cape Town, Pat and Gerda Stacey’s home in Clovelly is a celebration of being water wise.

From the bright floral rain drum in the front garden to the fun al fresco shower in the back garden, their water-saving initiatives are a wonderful combination of innovative water use and collecting water creatively.

Gerda was the initiating energy, explained Pat. She started with some rather quirky ideas about collecting both rain and grey water.

“I helped install the systems even though I thought some of her ideas were a bit strange. We use all our grey water, except dishwashing water, and have barrels and tanks to collect rain water. As a result, our water account dropped from between R200 to R300 per month to rarely more than R20 per month.

“Now I am totally committed,” he smiled, “and I feel good about being so water conscious – after all, water is life.”

Gerda learnt to value water during a particularly devastating drought in the Free State.

“Water was so scarce I had to bath myself and the children in a carefully rationed bucket of water collected from the neighbour’s borehole,” she recalled.

Coping through that terrible drought left Gerda with a deep appreciation of just how precious water is, but her creativity and desire to be independent also motivates her. She and Pat have turned their garden into a food garden with chickens and bees and a variety of vegetables which, of course, need regular watering. The water comes from a collection of rain tanks and drums.

Their use of the grey water is especially enterprising. The water from the washing machine goes into a drum which is used to flush the toilet. It also gets topped up with shower water.

Even the teenagers shower while standing in the red basin to ensure that very little water runs away.Whenusing the outside shower, a sign on the backyardgatewarns that a shower is in progress and privacy would be preferred. The shower water is mainly used to water the shrubs and flowering plants.

“People would be shocked,” commented Pat, “if they really knew just how much water, in most cases drinking water, gets flushed down the toilet. During a recent Sunday family get together, the 200-litre tank we use to flush the toilet was emptied,” he exclaimed, as he showed me the ingenious system he had rigged to flush the toilet with grey water.

The toilet is a standard, if older model toilet. Pat replaced the cistern lid with an old-fashioned one with decorative holes so that you can see inside.

The cistern is kept empty and inside are two markers for “No 1” and “No 2” respectively. Before you “go”, you open a neat tap on the inlet pipe and fill the cistern to the appropriate level. The water gravity feeds from a greywater tank immediately outside the bathroom. When you flush, the cistern empties and no residual water remains, thereby avoiding any grey water odours in the bathroom.

If the grey water tank gets a bit whiffy, Gerda drops in a few caps full of bleach.

Pat and Gerda laughed when I commented that they were taking being waterwise to a new level.

“Some people think we are a bit crazy, but we don’t mind,” Pat said.

“What makes us sad is that all too often people think that individually we can’t make a difference.”

Pat and Gerda are certainly making a difference as well as building resilience and a degree of water independence in a way that is fun and rewarding.

Kim Kruyshaar, of Green Audits, has a Master’s degree in environmental and geographical science and is a professional sustainability auditor who lives in Clovelly. For more information on going green, visit, a website dedicated to understanding how to use energy, water and raw materials in a way that saves resources and money.