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On a glorious autumn Sunday afternoon, the sun’s rays melt through the bathroom window. Water pours down from the shower, looking like liquid gold. The warm golden water runs over my head and kisses my face as I look up towa… “FIONA! Why is the shower on for such a long time?! Get out now, you’re wasting water!”
I’m sure that many people have had a tap tyrant for a mum or dad. In my case it was daddy dearest who had the knack of interrupting me just as I was starting to enjoy my shower.
Now, let me introduce you to my mum – the clean queen. Let’s just say that leaving the house without a shower (even if it was to buy milk for breakfast) was viewed in the same light as line dancing on the dinner table (a big no-no). Finding the balance between tap tyrant in training and apprentice clean tween was never an easy task.
I have always been responsible when using water, purely because it developed from a respect for the resource that feeds life. Regardless, like many of us, I took for granted that the water coming out of my tap would forever continue to flow. That was until Day Zero made an appearance on the horizon of my home town.
Hair washing days have always been my best (and were my longest showers too). I have been genetically coded to have naturally oily hair. The feeling of clean, freshly styled hair is what I imagine the feeling to be of revealing the “after” version of myself on Extreme Makeover. Throw some amazing clothes on and I’m stepping out of my lengthy grooming process looking and feeling like I’ve just won best in show as streamers and glitter explode out of cannons behind me.
Whether it’s getting ready for work, getting ready for a big night out, getting ready for bed, or to relax, having a shower-reliant ritual has been an integral part of so many people getting ready.
Cue the drought in Cape Town and a series of severe water restrictions, and internal chaos erupts.
With just 50 litres of water a day: what am I meant to do now, mum? I will never be ready for anything in my life again!
Once the initial panic and confusion cleared, I realised that now is when my skills acquired during my tap tyrant training and clean tween apprenticeship come into play. I got this! Less water did not mean less clean.
I am proud to say that I am a recovering showerholic and I am still clean.
I now wash myself with a cloth and hot water in a basin like we did when I was younger. My hair still gets washed but now, in longer intervals. The clean queen in my life taught me a hair hack many years before the thought of using potable water to wash my hair triggered an internal conflict – baby powder. Dusting some baby powder through my hair gets rid of that heavy oily look that my hair suffers after more than two days wash-free. Put it in before styling, after styling, during styling…
It’s amazing how far you can push your sebaceous glands (Google it) to hold onto their natural oils. OK, so it isn’t quite pushing them but rather getting them used to a new normal. See, consistent hair washing stimulates your sebaceous glands to produce sebum faster in response to it being washed away. Your sebaceous glands get used to this quantity and frequency of production and they can in fact be trained to release it slower. Once they realise that you aren’t going to speedily eradicate the natural oils your hair needs, production will slow down a bit.
While you’re training your glands, there will be some slippery moments. My baby-powder-dusted hair was no longer looking like a penguin’s worst nightmare, but there was still something missing that prevented the streamer and glitter cannons from firing. I still needed to look and feel awesome. So, I did what any self-respecting woman would do – fake it ‘til you make it. Disguise it in plaits or pig tails!
I have even gone as far as planning my (rapid on/off) shower days around the places I need to be, the people I need to see and the way I need to feel. I use the secret weapon of a shower wisely.
I chuckle at the irony of the annoyance I felt at my rudely dad-interrupted shower in contrast to the feeling of accomplishment I get when I walk out that bathroom with cannons firing and only having used three litres of water (yes, mum, I do wash behind my ears). I just managed to find a way to make it work, a way to get me ready while being wiser – I found my own new normal.
WWF's weekly Water Files will help you to save water in a time of severe water restrictions.