Gauteng has had some pretty good rainfall lately that has topped up the dam levels to over 100% full in some cases. With the dry season beginning will we see a dramatic drop in the dam levels as a result of the handwashing drive to fight against the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic?
The Covid-19 virus has an oily membrane on the outside that protects the virus, it also allows the virus to easily stick to surfaces and live for long periods outside a host. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are effective as they break down the oily membrane of the virus, but nothing beats good old fashioned soap, warm water and a bit of a scrub. The soapy water literally sticks to the virus and "pulls" it off your skin, surrounding the virus so that it looses its sticky property. Once the virus is contained in a soapy bubble it slips off your skin and gets washed down the drain.
As a prevention measure, washing with warm water and soap is as amazingly simple as it is effective, the problem arises when you consider millions of people washing their hands for 20 seconds, frequently, every day. When we turn on the tap to soap up the tap is allowed to run while we wait for the warm water. 20 seconds pass plus a few more seconds to thoroughly remove the soap and the tap is finally turned off. This amounts to a necessary loss of water of anything from 2 to 5 litres per hand wash depending on how much the tap is opened and whether it is turned off or left running. Combined per household, this adds up to a lot of water.
Can the dams withstand this increased demand or will we be looking at a Day Zero situation sooner than we expect?
Prevention is far better than the cure in the case of the coronavirus and our future water needs. It is time to prepare for a water-scarce future and make sure that you have a rainwater harvesting system to supply your household and a greywater system to recycle the used hand washing water.