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Updated 02 June 2017

Here's what your gym is cutting back on amid the water crisis

In some Cape Town gyms, steam rooms and saunas are a thing of the past (for now), and two-minute showers may be the future.

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Amid the Western Cape water crisis – the region was declared a disaster area last Monday – the province's health and fitness club groups are trying to do their bit, something which hasn't met with an entirely favourable response.

Late last week, Virgin Active announced they would be shutting their steam rooms and saunas in the Western Cape.

Many members unhappy

In the message to members, they said that this would save an estimated 650 000 litres of water per month.

Coupled with that announcement, the health and fitness group also said they were going to stop filling their swimming pools. Should the water level drop to a level where pools can no longer be safely used, they will shut them down as well.

But many members are not happy. 

The company’s Facebook page and Twitter account have seen a number of messages asking for alternatives.

One of the main questions is whether a downgrade in facilities will see membership fees discounted accordingly, but replies from the company on social media indicate this is unlikely.

Other gyms follow suit

According to Virgin's head of Changing Business for Good, Wesley Noble, the situation "has really focused our minds and we calculate we’ve saved as much as 10.5 million litres in the region, which is the equivalent of seven extra glasses of drinking water for every resident in the Western Cape".

Virgin Active isn’t the only gym implementing water saving measures at their facilities.

Santie De Kock, Zone Fitness’ National Marketing Manager, said they too have been driving for members to save water while at their respective clubs.

"We've reminded our members that we need to save water, and all bathrooms have notices in them.

"With level four restrictions implemented, we’ll be driving more awareness campaigns and include some general information on how our members can save water at home as well.

Showers won't be shut down

"Our facilities do not have swimming pools and our initial evaluation of saunas and steam rooms did not indicate a high use of water at all, but we have since identified the cleaning of the facility might.

"We are now considering alternative cleaning methods, but if none are suitable, we will consider closing the two steam rooms and three saunas we have in total as well."

A while back, Virgin Active started their water saving initiative and replaced their shower heads with eco-showerheads which use about 30% less water, but the company won’t shut down showers altogether. 

Company spokesperson, Les Aupiais, said: "We cannot foresee shutting down showers altogether without severely impacting on health and hygiene standards and our members' experience.

"Because the showers are fitted with low-flow eco-showerheads, we believe the drop in litres used, is a reasonable compromise. Most areas where we have saved water have not impacted on our members’ experience."

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