Homecooked meals company slashes water usage

Through a rainwater harvesting and filtering system, Dinner4U serves up food for 50-60 people a day at half the maximum allowable consumption

Elmarie Sampson with a Dinner for U pizza next to one of the rainwater tanks on the premises. Thanks to a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system, the company runs almost completely off filtered rainwater
COOKING GOOD IDEA: Elmarie Sampson with a Dinner for U pizza next to one of the rainwater tanks on the premises. Thanks to a comprehensive rainwater harvesting system, the company runs almost completely off filtered rainwater
Image: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

Serving up delicious home-cooked meals is one thing, but doing it with minimal use of municipal water in these drought-stricken times is the cherry on top.

Thanks to various interventions and strategies Dinner4U in Burt Drive, Cotswold, uses about half the volume of municipal water it would otherwise use.

The company is co-owned by Weather Guru and SA Weather Service spokesperson Garth Sampson and his wife, Elmarie, and run by her and three staff.

Their adherence to the basics and constant oversight is what makes the system work.

“It begins with reading your water meter every day,” he said.

“Even when we go away for a holiday, I organise someone to read it and record the units for me.

“It helps you pick up early on leaks and, in turn, allows you to avoid months of fighting with the metro.

“Most importantly, only once you know exactly how much you’re using can you really start to save.

“We’ve got four tanks holding 7,000l of filtered rainwater at our Dinner4U premises and we use that for everything, except when there’s a power outage and the pumps fail or when we need hot water for washing some pots, so we’re 90% off the municipal water grid.”

Sampson, the founder and driving force behind the popular Weather Guru Facebook page, said while they mostly used water for washing dishes, they also used it to cook with, to wash dish towels, flush the staff loo and wash hands.

“Our water is filtered by reverse osmosis so it’s spotless.

“The system does generate some waste water but we channel that straight back into our tanks, where it is filtered again as it is delivered into the kitchen,” he said. 

“I’m very proud of Elmarie and our staff, and I can immediately see how our consumption goes up when we have to employ a casual worker who doesn’t know the system and the importance of sticking to it.”

Sampson said while an increasing number of Bay residents were investing in rainwater tanks, most of them were not linked up to supply the household with water.

“If it’s for the sole purpose of having a nice garden then that is not saving water at all.

“You need to start using the water in the actual household or business to reduce the pressure you are putting on the municipal supply.”

He said he had long since disconnected their company toilet and bathroom from the municipal water system.

“When the loo is connected, each flush uses 9l so instead we just use a bucket full of tank water emptied into the bowl and it works like a bomb.

“That system alone saves about 100l a day and we save 400l a day during the washing of dishes and dish towels, so we save altogether about 500l of municipal water a day.

“It’s about taking responsibility as residents and as a small business in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“The metro, as we know, is in a very tight spot water-wise.

“And of course it also saves us money — about R450 a month.”

Sampson said their saving measured up well against the 15-kilolitre maximum the Bay municipality had stipulated for households.

“At home, we are off the grid, and we use just over 50% of that maximum acceptable volume at our business.

“So we could technically use 30kl a day at our two premises, but we only use about 8kl.

“That’s a total saving of 60% across the two premises.”

He said while Elmarie sometimes accused him of being overly obsessive about this issue, she saw the positive results in the business’s water bill.

“As a small business we cannot afford to manage our water any other way, so all our staff are well-informed and I’m very proud of them.”

Sampson said he was installing two more rainwater tanks at Dinner4U and the hope was that the company would be able to go off the municipal water grid completely by the end of 2021.

Elmarie said the company cooked for 50-60 people a day.

“I feel very proud that we are producing so much food and at the same time saving water, and I think it’s increasing awareness as well through our clients, because they can see the way we do things and it convinces them to start saving water too.”

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