News Room

#WaterCrisis: Will Gyms Turn Their Taps Off?

Author: Melissa Cohen
Date: 2018-01-22
With businesses around the city being affected by the water crisis, many are wondering about gyms. Will they pull the plug on their showers?
With Cape Town currently experiencing the worst drought in centuries, public places are starting to feel the pinch. Restaurants, shopping malls and gyms around the city have had to implement water saving techniques. Much debate has surfaced around the food industry as some restaurants around the city have chosen to charge patrons for water. Others, however, have decided to take the option of tap water off their menu. Last week, Fedhasa Cape chairperson, Jeff Rosenberg expressed his concern about restaurants taking advantage of the water crisis. While restaurants are suffering, so too are gyms around Cape Town. With the increase in gym members at the beginning of the year, will the taps be turned off? We find out...

Will Gyms Pull The Plug? 

Year on year, the influx of people who join the gym at the beginning of the year is astounding. Many of these people, however, tend to not last that long. Despite this, the shower situation is a popular conversation among avid gym goers in the change rooms. With Day Zero fast approaching, a week earlier than expected in fact, how much longer would members be able to make use of the gym showers? According to Virgin Active SA's Managing Director, Ross Faragher-Thomas, Virgin Active is doing their best to remain water wise.
"This drought has required us to look across our business to see where we could reduce water consumption but also in the investment required to use water more efficiently in the long term. The reality is that we live in a water scarce country. Measures we put in place now will remain in place even once the drought eases," explains Faragher-Thomas.
He explains that throughout the 30 Western Cape clubs, there has been a water reduction of more than 29%. The club plans to reduce their water consumption even further in the upcoming months.
SAVE up to 35% on your car insurance. Get a quote today!

What About The Showers? 

Members can breath a sigh of relief for now, as there are no future plans of stopping shower usage.
"We know our showers use 5 to 6l per minute with the low flow shower heads. Ordinary home shower heads can use in excess of 15l per minute. Added to that, there is ‘’peer pressure’’ with some members openly calling out members who dare take showers longer than 2 minutes," adds the MD.
In addition to the low flow shower heads, the Virgin Active clubs also use timers, a pressure reduction system as well as waterless urinals. Faragher-Thomas and his team aim to use less than 5l per minute in their shower systems. "We have introduced buckets, giving members the option to capture their shower water. This water is then placed in the toilets to be used for flushing. We are applying for legal alternative water supply for our clubs and planning the logistics around transporting water to our clubs and ensuring that clubs have at least two days water stored onsite." Other local gyms, such as Planet Fitness, have also confirmed their water saving measures.
"With the Cape Town unique water situation we do as a business need to adhere to the policies and do what we can to reduce the water usage and so during certain times, showers are closed and inaccessible," explains Planet Fitness's Carmen Spence.

What Has Already Been Done? 

According to Virgin Active, here is a list of actions that the club has already taken in order to save water:
  • Low flow shower-heads and taps;
  • No topping up of pools. Re-use of pool backwash water and using donated water to top up pools.Rainwater harvesting tanks: In summer, these tanks are used for water we procure through donations, or for rainwater harvested in other provinces;
  • Investment into 2 Greywater Systems for Ablutions with the view to rolling out this intervention to more clubs;
  • Plugs in basins to stop members leaving the water running when they shave;
  • Instantly hot water ie no need to leave tap running for water to warm up;
  • Hand sanitizer at basins.
Other temporary saving measures have been implemented in addition to these measures. Both the steam rooms and saunas have been switch off at all gyms. This has saved an additional 660 000l a month. Faragher-Thomas has warned members that in spite of the water saving, if Cape Town reaches Day Zero, all showers will be turned off indefinitely.