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Water is my second home

I probably spend as much time in water as I spend out of it. Living in Cape Town, the water and its icy temperatures comfort me, exhilarate me, challenge me and push me forward.

I always say that water can be your best friend and your worst enemy. The day you don’t respect it, it will let you know – potentially in a devastating way – who is boss. Water and I, we argue, we fight and we either come to terms or we don’t, but there is always a massive respect.

As an extreme swimmer, the water makes me who I am and it keeps me real.

So it’s no surprise that the severe drought in Cape Town has had a deep impact on me. I’d like to say my core mood is directly proportional to the local dam levels and low rainfall in recent years. I therefore have not had peace in my heart for a long time. Like so many committed Capetonians, I have cut my water usage – even below the 50-litre level!

© WWF-SA
Ryan Stramrood (back right), in the fine company of fellow participants, during the 2017 Journey of Water.

A life-changing experience

The water crisis has opened my eyes to just how little we need versus how much water we used to use. But my water journey goes back a little further. Last year I was invited to join an amazing group of people on WWF’s 2017 Journey of Water.

On a three-day adventure from a stunning water source area to a city tap, we travelled a few hundred kilometres from Mabola protected environment in rural Mpumalanga to Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal. In the fine company of SA celebs Hlubi Mboya, Reason, DJ DaKruk, and Leanne Manas I was treated to a life-changing experience.

What happened along the way

I suppose I always knew that ‘water doesn’t come from a tap’, but I learnt that the journey of water is a far more complex animal than I ever imagined. I got to see, up close, the severe impacts of mining and unsustainable farming operations in our country. These operations contaminate both our surface and underground water, and then they fail to adequately rehabilitate the land and rivers. We also met people in the poorest communities trying their best to educate others about keeping these rivers clean.

Witnessing the many landscapes that water passes through and the ways it is used and affected by mining or farming before finally arriving at our taps afforded me a fresh perspective. From physically walking through these landscapes, seeing the delicate balances at play, and observing how nature has so brilliantly put it all together, I developed an even deeper appreciation of our most precious natural resource.

Everyone should gain a better understanding of the complex process that water takes – the delicate journey – before even one drop comes out of our tap.

© WWF-SA
Ryan Stramrood prepares for an open swim in the Bivane River in KwaZulu-Natal as part of WWF's Journey of Water.

Part of the solution

From this experience, I knew wholeheartedly that I wanted to be part of a movement that works to conserve water. I wanted to understand the scale and scope of the problem and I wanted to be part of the solution.

I always choose to do extensive swimming training in the open water – outside in nature – rather than in the swimming pool. In this way, I literally ‘immerse’ myself in the problem and the solution.

Now, the Journey of Water has put me in a position to spread the word, with authority, that we must value every drop of water. It has inspired me to go on beach cleaning days and to get involved with other water conservation efforts. I also strive to inspire others. This is why I was delighted to join WWF on World Water Day as a small group of people swam in Silvermine Dam. It was a fitting way to raise awareness for, and celebrate, the true source of our water!  

Ryan Stramrood Photo
Ryan Stramrood , extreme swimmer and inspirational speaker

With a passion for swimming outdoors in icy conditions, Ryan is actually just an everyday guy – a single dad running a successful business. He is also an ambassador for WWF-SASSI.

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