How to survive on 50 Litres of water and less a day

If you’ve been living under a rock the past year and only hearing about the water crisis and the restrictions imposed now, welcome to our world. The world of water warriors who have a bit of experience in saving water and can give you some brilliant tips (a lot of it disgusting) on how to survive in our current situation. A lot of us have racked our brains, with the help of CoCT (City of Cape Town) along with other institutions on how doable it is and how to survive on 50 Litres and per day.

Although I am freaking out (totally!) about day zero, I am naive enough to be hopeful that a miracle will take place real soon. Until then I am doing my bit to save where I can and even doing a bit for you as well. No use being upset about the wasters. We will all suffer the consequences when day zero is upon us. The blame game is not even fun anymore. Poor planning on CoCT’s part and silly humans still running water because it hasn’t touched close to home just yet.

Strangely enough there are still many people who still didn’t receive the memo and are oblivious to the fact that we have a water crisis. After pausing a WhatsApp conversation earlier this month because I was doing washing, the person I was chatting with offered to save and buy me a washing machine for my birthday this year. I have a 13kg washing machine that is in excellent condition. I also have two hands in working order and in these circumstances guess which one wins hands down?

A few years ago my sister was living on the West Coast and on one particular weekend we went for a visit, there was no water. PNP and the water companies were smiling all the way to the bank that weekend. That’s when load shedding was still a thing. It was that weekend we realised the importance of water. Let’s face it, none of us ever really thought about how precious water was until we were forced to face the fact that we cannot live without it.

Admittedly I was concerned about how it would be possible to only consume 50 litres a day. Is it even possible? Is it plausible? And in saving water surely my wallet is going to cringe and possibly run away from home. Can file file a missing wallet report like you would a person? Saving water ultimately means spending extra cash. Or does it?

The past few days I’ve challenged myself to using approximately 10 litres of water a day for washing and consuming. A challenge that is no easy feat but after my colleague asked me how the heck I manage to smell so fresh after 3pm this week I guess it kind of works. Luckily the weather has been bearable too so it certainly helped. Best of all is I didn’t have to break the bank either. I have to emphasize that the 10 litres did not include using the loo but it did include cooking.

This is what my 10 Litre challenge looks like (remember no judgies, I find it difficult enough to feel mildly ok about it):

  1. I actually measure the amount I use per day. I plan my water usage like I would my budget.
  2. 2 Litres to wash myself. Twice a day. 2 in the mornings and 2 at night. I cannot do the bucket system because I don’t feel clean if water doesnt touch my whole body. I warm the water to my liking and toss it in the bath. It’s really funny but I get clean and don’t itch. I’ve noticed that I used more water when I shower. Anyhoo that water gets scooped out of the bath into a bucket which I will use for laundry. We’ll get there in a minute.
  3. 2 Litres are used for consumption which I’m pretty bad about. I don’t finish my two litres a day but I get pretty close considering I enjoy a cup of coffee and iced tea too.
  4. My just under 4 litres gets scooped out of the bath and goes into a bucket for laundry. So does the husband and kids water. At the end of the day I soak washing to hand wash. I wash the clothes and wring the extra water. Next it goes into the washing machine for a spin cycle to get rid of the excess water before rinsing. I have a homemade fabric softener recipe that gets rid of all the detergent and requires one rinse only. All the water doesn’t go exclusively to doing washing. We also use some for the toilet for flushing. Not a heck of a lot of water but I don’t do washing every single day thus some days I have more water for the toilet.
  5. 750ml gets used for brushing teeth and washing my hands.
  6. Now I’m at 6.75 litres I use about 500ml for rinsing food. All meat I purchase gets rinsed prior to me freezing it thus when I prepare food it’s a matter of defrosting and cooking. Also the reason why some days my water usage will be more than others. Veggies get rinsed with the 500ml that’s if I use veggies. I have changed our meals drastically as well to accommodate water savings. We eat plenty of box meals.
  7. The remaining litres are used to rinse washing. I have OCD and it manifests itself by turning me into a laundry maid. Like I said I have this brilliant recipe, and keep reading because I’ll be sharing it in a bit. This water too goes to the loo. Already I have two flushes available for the day even though I haven’t figured it into my plan.
  8. Even though flushing wasn’t part of my initial plan it factored its way into it. When flushing I do mini flushes which means I don’t let all the water flush in one go. This a method we’ve been practicing for many years to save on the water bill. So I know exactly when to manually lift the lever.
  9. For everything else I use wipes. Hand wipes. Face wipes. Counter wipes. You name it. I am naturally a wipes person so it’s not an extra item on my shopping list. It’s part of my monthly shopping. Dirty dishes gets wiped until the kids do the days dishes in the evening. Mostly we make us of sanitizing spray used for disinfecting surfaces for the dishes.

After nearly going mental about 50 litres a day I found that I can survive on less than that a day. This was a personal challenge and I still need to wash my hair and my girls hair. Not sure how the heck that’s going to pan out but I’ve got 40 litres to spare and my family has been trying their bit as well so I’d say we have a pretty good chance at making this work and then some.

So how to survive on 50 Litres and less a day? Careful planning. That’s it. Be conscientious about what you spend and how. Take the same approach you would with your budget. That’s if you have one. And if you don’t have a budget now might be a good time to have that too.

A few examples of points to consider is that it pays to know that the average toilet uses 9 litres of water per flush. Calculate how much water you need to wash yourself properly. I’ve heard that not everyone wash everyday. No comment on that. I am of the people who need to daily so to each their own. Instead of opening the tap every time, pour drinking water in bottles and save in the fridge. That way you’ll know how much you consume. It also beats rinsing a glass every time. There are many examples I can give besides the basics detailed here. In a nutshell it’s basic math that needs to be applied. Addition and subtraction. You can do it.

Fabric softener recipe:

2 cups of Conditioner (The cheapest runniest brand you can find)

3 cups of White Vinegar

6 cups of warm water

A few drops of essential (optional but definitely recommended)

Mix ingredients together slowly and thoroughly then pour into bottles.

Use as many or litre as you want. I guesstimate depending on the load of washing. About a quarter cup does the trick for a normal load.

Toilet freshener/disinfectant between flushes:

1/4 cup Bicarbonate of soda

1/4 cup Borax

A bit of water (to mix dry ingredients)

1 cup Vinegar

10-15 drops of essential oil

Combine ingredients slowly to avoid fizzing. Add essential oils last. You can leave borax out if you choose.

Spray in toilet after a no.1 to eliminate odours and disinfect.

(A squirt of bleach in the toilet bowl is also a good idea if you don’t want to mix and spray.)

As for CoCT penalizing those who overspend on water… I don’t quite know that’s going to happen. How is it humanly possible to see who overspends? Some households have fewer warm bodies than others so how exactly would they know accurate figures since the last stats survey? Don’t go wasting water because of this now. We are all key players in this crisis.

My wishlist items for the immediate future are:

  • Life straws
  • Wonder washer
  • JoJo tank.

My family and I need to be extra prepared for all eventualities. Even when we are back in the black this has become a way of life now. Lastly, stock up on plenty of water. Already the stores are running out of stock.

Besides the fact that you may think I’m crazy and disgusting (desperate times) because I do on the regular, I challenge each one reading this post to save like it’s going out of fashion and try to live on less than the 50 per day.

With love,



  1. Diana Studer

    January 27, 2018 at 12:55 am

    We are averaging 48 litres of tap water a day.
    And absolutely NO wipes here. I don’t want to add a plastic to landfill problem to the water problem.

    1. CJ

      January 27, 2018 at 8:44 am

      How awesome Diana. There are so many important factors to consider besides the water saving. You are correct in not wanting to add to the plastic landfill problem. I will definitely look into some biodegradable wipes.

      Thank you for stopping by.

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    1. CJ

      June 19, 2018 at 5:46 pm

      Hi Jan. Examine away. Let me know how it works for you.

      Thank you for stopping by.

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    1. CJ

      July 24, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      Hi Reggie, thank you for stopping by. I write all the time but mostly as a ghost writer. I’ll get to publishing an some day. Forward me your website and I’ll be sure to check you out.

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