Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has revealed that she only showers “briefly” every third day and that she regards “oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car”.

Zille’s insights into her personal hygiene were offered in a lengthy online column in which she attacked TimesLIVE and one of our journalists for a report last week.

“As for my husband and I‚ we try to use so little water‚ that I sometimes get worried about the hygienic and aesthetic consequences‚” Zille wrote.

“I shower briefly‚ once every three days‚ and for the rest wash in the hand basin. I used to wash my hair every day‚ but now only when I shower‚ with visibly negative consequences. However‚ I regard oily hair in a drought to be as much of a status symbol as a dusty car.”

Zille also revealed that Cape Town consumers whose water consumption is estimated by the city may‚ in fact‚ have consumed only half as much.

The TimesLIVE report which stoked Zille’s ire was based on Western Cape public works MEC Donald Grant’s statements in response to questions in the provincial legislature.

He told the legislature that R90‚000 had been spent on a water purification system for her official residence at Leeuwenhof. He also provided water consumption figures for Leeuwenhof for July and August and estimated that he thought four people lived on the property‚ but stressed he was not certain.

The TimesLIVE report calculated that‚ based on the information that Grant provided‚ that the premier’s household was not meeting the 87-litre-a-day target which has been set for all residents.

Zille’s lengthy explanation and attack on TimesLIVE was published on Tuesday after her staff and others took to social media to berate our journalist in the days after it was published.

She claimed that some 30 people were on the property during the day and that there were between six and 10 people in the manor house during the working day. This made it “impossible” to estimate water usage based on the number of people who lived at Leeuwenhof.

Further‚ one of the months of water consumption cited by Grant in the legislature had been an estimate‚ she said.

“Estimated water usage is always much higher than actual use — sometimes more than double — as illustrated by the difference between the July and August figures‚” she said.

She wrote that she and her husband had tried to “green” Leeuwenhof since they moved in in 2009 and had been working to take the property off the municipal water grid.

“When we arrived it was all pansies and petunias. Today there is a lot of fynbos and other “water-wise” local flora‚” she said.

She said Grant’s answer in the provincial legislature last week was the first she had heard of the water purification system being installed.

She said the estate’s manager had implemented a range of water conservation measures‚ including arranging for “bricks to be placed in all the large old cisterns that service the many toilets on the estate”.

“We wash dishes by hand‚ even after formal functions‚ because the dishwasher uses too much water‚” Zille added.